Monday, October 05, 2009

Interesting Shorts: la Morte Amoureuse

Long before Sheridan Le Fanu wrote Carmilla, in 1836 to be precise, we gained another female vampire who was brimming with sexuality. She was Clarimonde and featured in the Theophile Gautier story la Morte Amoureuse.

The story has been filmed as an episode of the most excellent series The Hunger and I looked at it, as a ‘Vamp or Not?’, here. For some reason the filmmakers excluded the vampiric references from the episode but they are there in the story – a story that Leonard R N Ashley, in “The Complete Book of Vampires” described as a tale “which deserves to be better known. It is the story of Clarimonde, who seduces and has an affair with a priest, but the priest’s superiors discover this and also the fact that Clarimonde is a vampire.”

This is a fair synopsis of the story. It follows Romuald, a devout young man who is being ordained when he sees a woman, Clarimonde, and falls immediately in love with her. It is too late, as he is in the process of saying his holy vows, and becomes a priest. She, he then discovers, is a courtesan and whilst it appears she was also interested in him, he leaves the city and moves to a country parish.

A year later a messenger calls at his parish and asks Romauld to go to his mistress. When he arrives he is shocked to discover that the mistress, who has just died, was Clarimonde. He kisses her dead lips and it revives her for a moment, long enough for her to claim that they are betrothed and she can visit him. Fearing him ill, his housekeeper summons his superior who tells him that Clarimonde died at the close of an orgy. He tells Romauld that “she was a ghoul, a female vampire; but I believe she was none other than Beelzebub himself” and that her tomb has been triple sealed as it was not the first time she had died.

Clarimonde visits Romauld in his sleep and there is much of the Succubus to the tale, the almost demonic aspect making sense when he tells her that he loves her as much as God – she is his fall from grace, however to maintain her life – in a dream world more real than the waking world – she drinks his blood: “A few drops of thy rich and noble blood, more precious and more potent than all the elixirs of the earth, have given me back life.”

Clarimonde is eventually destroyed when found in her tomb, pallid bar the trickle of blood at her mouth, and sprinkled with holy water that makes her crumble into “a shapeless and frightful mass of cinders and half-calcined bones” but, even then, her soul is able to go to Romauld to curse his betrayal and sever all links. One wonders, at that point, whether she was the evil creature that the church made her out to be. She loved him and drank only a few drops of his blood nightly and her revenge was to leave him in his unhappiness. It was, ultimately, the church’s dogma that condemned him to lose eternity.

To me the story ultimately criticises the church rather than the vampire. She is a beautiful and sensuous creature, whilst he is, in her words, an “Unhappy man”. An underrated story that deserves much more exposure.


Zahir Blue said...

I agree. It'd be great to see a quality adaptation of this story.

The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

I own both seasons of THE HUNGER on dvd, and this was one of my favourite episodes.

The second one "Brass"(2.11) was about the man that inherited the mirror and bed from his satanist father, and exorcised his girlfriend thinking she was a demon, to find out she was a guardian spirit to protect him from the demons in the mirror.

The last one "Nunc Dimittis" (2.05)was about the Vampire Countess Dracula who needed a new servant as her other one was dying. In drinking her blood he became semi-immortal and she became youthful again.

The imagery in this episode you mentioned is fantastic, and I am not surprised it was based on a story. Necros (1.03), another episode is based on a vampire tale written by Brian Lumley in his collection "The Coven of Vampires."

I find it strange that they would omit the vampire part of this story? why? the series is called The Hunger after all (spun off from the book/movie). But still an enjoyable episode. Pity other horror series like THE MASTERS OF HORROR didn't live up to expectations, though the first episode of season 2 of that show was a great vampire story too.

Thanks for the link to "La Morte Amoureuse".

S. Roit said...

This is one of my favorite shorts. I used a quote in the title pages of my second novel.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi guys, cheers for the comments.

Gabriel, Necros and Nunc Diimitis are both reviewed - look at the A-Z listing under H, I also reviewed the Masters of Horror "V" word episode, not bad - though might have been better, which went for the series (MofH) as it was hit and miss. Just started watching the Fear Itself series, which so far (3 eps in) is quite consistent.

Christine said...

Wonderful story! Quality adaptation would be indeed great, like Zahir said.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers Christine