I watched Albert Nobbs (2011) over the weekend. The drama tells the story of Albert Nobbs (Glenn Close), a woman, who is living as a man in order to find work and live independently in nineteenth-century Ireland. Albert is a hotel waiter for a rather upscale establishment in town and has been saving up great amounts of money in hopes of one day purchasing a tobacco shop.
One day, painter Hubert Page (Janet McTeer) is hired by the hotel owner and told to room with Albert, much to Albert’s dismay. That evening, Hubert discovers Albert’s secret only to reveal the next day to Albert that she is also a woman. Albert listens entranced as Hubert tells of how she is married to a woman named Cathleen and they have a happy, prosperous life together living in their own little shop.
For Albert, Hubert’s story is the ultimate inspiration. Hubert serves as a mirror through which Albert sees the way life could be. It is after meeting Hubert that Albert’s fantasies of having a business, a wife, and a purpose are transformed into realistic possibilities. The sole act of seeing Hubert was truly formative, as Lacan would say. Albert assumes an image and is transformed.