Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oh, Those Kooky Virgins!

Why is it that in the world of movies, all the crazy, psychopathic women are repressed virgins?

Last year we had Nina Sayers in “Black Swan.” The story received a lot of critical acclaim. It was well made and interesting viewing, but hardly among the top ten most riveting stories told. At first glance it seems to benefit from its novelty, but it really isn’t that fresh. The story is the old one of a girl who is too nice to succeed and must find her darker self to overcome. It has the old elements of a haunting doppelganger (which will concern this blog later this year in more Charles Williams fiction), the currently popular body horror, and the nutty female who is afraid of sex.

Perhaps originating this tale to some degree, is Polanski’s Carole Ledoux from 1965’s “Repulsion.” Left home alone for a week the quirky and antisocial Carole experiences a downward spiral into complete murderous insanity.

“Swan” has a lot of flashy sequences, but they all seem a bit too interesting from a film-making point of view—they take the viewer out of the story. Repulsion, on the other hand, has some genuinely scary sequences that sneak up on the viewer in the slow, plodding pace. Both make use of reflections to communicate the protagonists’ mental state. “Repulsion” may have even originated the old “mirror scare” device, and does so in a way that is still better than all the uses of that jump since.

In the end, both films disappoint because they are studies in mental illness that lead nowhere. “Repulsion” has no story to tell, but is more a clinical observation. “Swan” does tell a story, but lets you know exactly where it is going in the first few minutes. It is an intentional case of style over substance, and even though technically amazing it is a mostly empty exercise.

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