The Many Faces of Tilda Swinton

Contributing Writer; Toronto, Canada (@triflic)
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One has to only watch the last couple of Jim Jarmusch films to know that the director is in love with Tilda Swinton. Increasingly, the filmmaker's camera loves the way she moves, the way she wears clothing, and captures her unspoken, cooler-than-thou attitude. A moments in his most recent film, Only Lovers Left Alive, this reaches almost self-parody as the film lingers on observing Swinton's jet-setting vampire gather and pack her overnights for air travel.

Katherine Mathilda Swinton was born in Britain, and blessed with angular androgynous form that brings a detached, outer space vibe to her screen presence.  The first time I encountered the actress was in this surreal Orbital music video where she is essentially an otherworldly visitor wandering in time lapse.  In a way, this makes her somewhat a kindred spirit of David Bowie and, why yes, she is chummy enough with the iconic singer that they have dressed up as each other on one occasion and seem to enjoy working together too. 

For about a quarter decade Ms. Swinton has bounced from the art and fashion world and from indie cinema to Hollywood mainstream, she flits from cool an interesting projects the same way she effortlessly changes gender, age, and mediums.  We're intrigued by her characters even if we do not completely understand their headspace or even motivation, because we know she's smart and unpredictable. She managed to win an Oscar tangling with George Clooney in corporate lawyer circles, and has also slept publicly in a glass case as a gallery-display in the Museum of Modern Art.  There has to be a stronger phrase than 'has range.'

Her chameleon and unconventional but utterly striking looks creates a feedback loop with her penchant for choosing difficult and morally ambiguous characters.  This might just be the envy of even the most successful film stars who are often pigeonholed into the Hollywood machine or struggle to even find good on screen roles when they arrive in their 40s and 50s. Swinton can be found just as easily in an indie drama as she can anchor a foreign arthouse picture; she pops up from time to time in whimsical Wes Anderson pictures, franchise fantasy blockbusters and the aforementioned music videos.  And although the images here cannot easily capture it, she herself is a cottage industry for essaying 'horrible mothers' for which she is probably the current cinematic record holder.

Have a look at the 'vogue's gallery' of characters embodied by Tilda Swinton. Click through the images and guess which movies they are from. No competition, no prizes, just for fun, try to see how far you get without using IMDB.

And I'll post the answers next Thursday (earlier if someone has all thirteen of them right).

This shot does not count as part of the quiz yet. Or at least, it does not count as the part where you need to do any guessing. This shot is from the above mentioned, and forthcoming, Jim Jarmsch film Only Lovers Left Alive where Swinton appropriately plays a literature and Motown loving vampiress on a vacation, of sorts, in old Detroit.

All others do though, so click away through the images!

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Tilda Swinton

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The Seafairy March 7, 2014 1:04 PM


I LOVE HER. I really can't get 3 and 9 without IMDB. I swear I've seen 9 but I might've not seen 3. But maybe.... I'll edit with an IMDB EDIT update.

Ard VijnMarch 7, 2014 1:14 PM

I hardly know any of these, and the few I do know I agree with The Seafairy here in this thread.
Wild guesses then for 3 and 9:

KurtMarch 7, 2014 1:21 PM

11 is not Michael Clayton. ;) The rest You've got right, albeit (you're playing 'unspecific' with the Narnia entry, but those films all run together for me too

dustin changMarch 7, 2014 1:28 PM

3. Technolust

KurtMarch 7, 2014 1:33 PM

9 is indeed the BEACH, I thought the clue might help.

KurtMarch 7, 2014 1:34 PM

We have a BINGO! Only about 10 of us have actually saw that movie (Caught it at TIFF years ago...)

dustin changMarch 7, 2014 2:01 PM

I'm a Tilda completeist. ;)

GuestMarch 7, 2014 2:06 PM

Oh man! I can't believe I got that one wrong. I know what it is now after looking at it for a bit. You threw me off with the, "it's all business."

The Seafairy March 7, 2014 2:12 PM

Oh, man. I can't believe I got that one wrong! I know it now after looking at it for a good while. I can't believe I didn't get it because BURN AFTER READING's one of my favorites. But I still can't figure out 9.

The Seafairy March 7, 2014 2:37 PM

Oh man, it IS THE BEACH. Guh.

KurtMarch 7, 2014 3:16 PM

Which, in Burn After Reading, she is. :) - I knew what I was doing with that 'clue' in terms of misdirection.

itrollidiotsMarch 7, 2014 6:24 PM

An article paying tribute to Tilda Swinton and absolutely no mention of DEREK JARMAN. Writer needs to be fired for not doing research.

KurtMarch 7, 2014 6:52 PM

Aware - yes. Absolutely necessary for a 'faces of screen shot quiz.' hmmm, not the end of the world. This piece wasn't expressly intended for the Atlantic Monthy or Sight and Sound.

Oh. Yea. There is just no 'completely' pleasing the internet, I forgot. Carry on.

Shi YingMarch 8, 2014 12:22 AM

don't wish to be a prick but i believe it's spelt as teknolust