Friday, November 20, 2020

La Rose de Sang – review


Director: Klaudia Lanka

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

Viewed at the 2020 IVFAF, this feature can be summed up in a single word, melodrama. Not that there is anything wrong with melodrama when done right, and this was certainly a good melodrama. A romance, most definitely, with a fairy-tale heritage.

It also boasted, as we will see, some wonderful sets, the strangest of idiosyncrasies and a central performance which managed to single-handedly bring Jean Rollins’ work to mind.

victim

We see a brooding, Byronic figure in the woods. He is Wladislas (Julien Belon) and a wolf pads up to him. He continues, attending a village ball but staying separate from the villagers. He visualises himself with a woman, Apollina (Jennifer Brigant), a bitter sweet memory. Eventually he drifts off to a gypsy camp, where a group of gypsy women dance. One spins off into the woods and he is by her, she thinks his overture sexual but soon his teeth are in her neck. She struggles but soon is dead. He returns home to his castle and converses with his servant Tobiec (Philippe Bataille), it is clear he is compelled to kill but is deathly tired of his undead existence.

Benjamin Lhommas as Joseph

In the village, the next day, we see a young man named Joseph (Benjamin Lhommas), sneak up on Lucyllia (also Jennifer Brigant), as she washes laundry. They are cousins, with Joseph’s mother (Fran V.) having taken Lucyllia in. It appears that he, perhaps, suffers from learning difficulties, his dialogue appearing much younger than his apparent age. They are called home and are told about the gypsy woman and Lucyllia’s aunt blames the Count in the dreadful castle. She also seems to see the interest that Joseph takes in his cousin, that Lucyllia herself is ignorant of.

Apollina in sunlight

Wladislas goes out and feeds on prostitutes (I’ll come back to them/her). When he returns to the castle, he speaks with Tobiec again, who suggests that he needs to make himself a companion. He cannot though. He remembers Apollina, who allowed herself to be captured, two centuries before (in a commonly remembered purge of vampires), and met the sun. She made him promise not to turn another and Wladilas is the last of their kind. Tobiec remembers a crazy man in the mountains who may know how Wladislas might regain his humanity.

the crazy old man

The crazy old man does indeed. Wladislas must love and inspire love in another, and then consummate that love. All is lost thinks Wladislas, as he always loses control during the sexual act, but the old man suggests that love might prevail (though it didn’t for the vampire, in his books, who previously tried this). Returning to the castle he sees Lucyllia leaving and realises she is the image of Apollonia (it isn’t ever stated that she is the reincarnation of her, but the genre trope this relies on implies so). Tobiec says that she came to look for a job but he sent her away. Angry, Wladislas tells him to find her and give her employment – Tobiec makes him promise he won’t harm her before agreeing.

Julien Belon as Wladislas

So, she gets a job and Wladislas looks to woo her. He is also a bit creepy, with it. Early on he spies on her undressing (I’ll come back to this, too) and she becomes aware she is being watched but doesn’t actually see him. However, he also teaches her to read and they do begin to fall in love. Meanwhile a stranger (Thierry Moralès) has arrived at the village who clearly means Wladislas no good (and yet does little until months have passed). Joseph, of course, is jealous (and seems to miss the magnificent moment of friend zoning he is subjected to). Will love prevail? Indeed will love prevail over the vampire’s base hunger?

idiosyncratic underwear

This is thick with melodrama, but it is really well done. I loved the locations the film was shot in, but there was a massive idiosyncrasy. Whilst the bits of village and castle we see look marvellous, and the costumes fit the pre-industrial setting we seem to be in, the underwear worn by both the prostitute(s) and Lucyllia seemed utterly modern. It just kind of sat out like a saw thumb (and also made you wonder how this peasant girl, newly installed as a maid, could afford posh lingerie). I guess the filmmakers thought it added a sexiness and erotic aspect to the romance, however.

attack

The performances are generally good – Julien Belon is dark and brooding, Jennifer Brigant is bright and pleasant and Philippe Bataille is particularly good as the earnest and sincere servant. It is Belon’s performance that reminds me of the kind of lead you might see in a jean Rollin film, with a generally soft delivery, though that can be underscored with a strong angry outburst where needed. I called him Byronic at the head, but this is more in look than temperament. He is no Heathcliffe, being drawn as a good man fighting his bestial nature. The story itself owes something to Beauty and the Beast, of course.

Philippe Bataille as Tobiec

If you like your melodrama then this is well put together, well shot and worth a look. 

6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

4 comments:

Tomm said...

hey,
Where can you find this movie?

Tomm said...

Hey,
This looks interesting.Where can i watch this movie?
Thanks

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Tomm, thanks for stopping by. As mentioned at the head of the review I saw this as part of the 2020 International Vampire Film And Arts Festival. I don't think that it currently has a distribution, which is a shame, but hopefully it will soon.

Tomm said...

Indeed a shame. It looks like a good movie.