I watched an interesting film last night that I thought was going to be a horror film. Turns out it was more of a historical biography: The Countess (2009), directed by and starring the French actress Julie Delpy. It's about the famous Hungarian "Blood Countess" Erzebet (usually Anglicized to Elizabeth) Bathory (1560-1614). Bathory's story is unique in the world of beauty treatments - she insisted upon the blood of young girls to keep her skin soft and ageless. Legend was, she bathed in it. (It reminds me of the old Palmolive ad campaign: "You're soaking in it!") If you do a google image search on her name you can see that this has inspired all sorts of ghoulish art. The one that comes to mind with me is the one you usually see reprinted in legitimate history books, Istvan Csok's impressionist painting.
Well, that's Bathory's legend, anyway. What actually happened is debated. What isn't debated was that an investigation was launched and that she was brought to justice for the deaths of girls numbering anywhere from 36 to 650. Nobody is sure about the actual number, but there is agreement that Bathory was probably the most prolific female serial killer in history. Her sentence was to be walled up in a tower, her food fed to her through a slit. She died after four years.
Delpy's film is entertaining and considerably more tasteful and restrained than I thought it might be; she avoids sensationalism and portrays Bathory as a woman in love with a younger man, determined (and delusional) to keep a youthful appearance in spite of middle age. The scenes of her wiping blood on her face and gazing at he mirror are well-wrought. Nice try, Liz, but age happens to all of us - if we're lucky. There is aging and there is death, the only two options available to us in this life.
One character in the film has a brief line of dialogue about how there is a certain beauty in aging, a sentiment with which I agree. True beauty, after all, is not just a matter of appearance. That's superficial. True beauty is a combination of appearance, demeanor, behavior, accumulated life experience and a spiritual sort of inner glow. There is also the representation of a life well-lived, possibly the best manifestation of real beauty. Can an old, shriveled woman be beautiful? Absolutely.
I also started watching a documentary about the vampire/voivode Dracula that turned out to really be a very dry account of the life of Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula. I gave up on it.
I notice that whenever somebody mentions Dracula, they also mention that it hasn't been out of print since it was first published in 1897. An enviable record, but one could say the same for any number of other works: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn comes to mind. I suspect the record probably belongs to Homer; I'm fairly sure the Iliad has been available since it was first written down sometime around 850 B.C. So it's been an in print best seller for 2,850 years!
The other day I mentioned Shirley Temple and her lack of cinematic father figures... I am something of a Shirley Temple expert. (My son tried me by asking in what film did she nearly encounter her father sick in a bed, and I was able to quickly respond that it was in The Little Princess. I'm also one of the relatively few people who know that the Good Ship Lollipop was, in fact, an airplane. Did you know that?) My mother insisted upon watching and rewatching the old Temple films when I was a kid. She loved them. What with her viewing habits and her doll collections, there were times I distinctly suspected she'd have much rather have had a girl than me.
Or maybe the little girl was really my mother. My wife has a novel explanation: my mother's mother died when she was only four - and I am unsure of when her father remarried. My wife suspects that my mother was never mothered herself, and she has therefore perhaps acted out or psychologically been involved in the world of little girls by way of compensation. Sounds logical to me. What is certain is that my mother had a complex personality. To this day I still wonder about why she did some of the things she did.
It runs in the family.
- ▼ June (19)
- ► 2011 (249)
- ► 2010 (246)
- ► 2009 (256)