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The Countess (2009)

December 18, 2011

MY CALL:  Sanguineous, sincere, and psychotic!  Delpy has outdone herself. [B+]  IF YOU LIKE THIS, WATCH:  Lovers of this dark, murderous period piece should very much delight in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2007).  Though less malevolent, I’d also suggest Anonymous (2011).  Anyone new to Julie Delpy (or Ethan Hawke) should pick up these amazing date movies: Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004).

Julie Delpy wrote, produced, directed and starred in this perhaps somewhat-fictionalized historical account of the Countess Erzebet Bathory (1560-1614), an infamous, noble Hungarian widowed by her warlord Count.  This historical figure has been known as the Blood Countess and Countess Dracula, has been compared to Vlad III (Vlad the Impaler), and was loosely associated with witchcraft.

From early childhood through marriage, and leading to the death of her husband, Erzebet (Julie Delpy) is painted with all the makings of a “typical” noblewoman with “typical” white-people-problems of the time.  We see the potential for both compassion and cold sociopathy in the future of this powerful and highly intelligent woman.

The Countess

In her late thirties Erzebet meets and fancies Istvan (Daniel Brühl), a young noble and the son of Count Gyorgy Thurzo (William Hurt) whose recent advances she denied.  Young Istvan is quite sincerely taken with Erzebet, as is she with him.  But she finds herself transfixed on his fine skin and, ill-comparably, her aging skin (as she is nearly twenty years his senior).  Little did she know that Gyorgy would use her love for Istvan against her for years to come.

After promises to be together, Erzebet waits for Istvan.  She becomes obsessed with “looking worn and old” and resigns herself to continuous fasting and prayer until Istvan answers her.  Later, actions of self loathing, self mutilation, and bondage fuel her descent into madness.  After some provocative suggestions from a vamp-like nobleman and a random household accident, she learns to find comfort in the rejuvenating properties of virgins’ blood.  Her young handmaid plays the scapegoat of this psychosis as she is periodically drained.  As time passes, Erzebet’s addiction to sanguineous cosmetics increases and so follows the body count with her state of mania.

[BELOW we find her waiting to receive a shower of blood produced by her “draining machine”]

The film is presented with a strong feministic tone in support of Erzebet’s integrity and actions despite her psychosis, as if told by Erzebet as an autobiography.  Delpy was fantastic.  Much as with Anonymous, an admirable job was done with a limited (i.e., non-Blockbuster) budget.  The cinematography and wardrobe were fantastic.  The set design should be noted for effort, but it takes a big budget to properly emulate the grandeur of nobility in period films.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Qusay "Sweet Sugar" Hussein permalink
    December 18, 2011 6:35 pm

    Lacey Hofmeyer here. I really liked this movie. Period piece with “supernatural” elements is my preferred genre. Netflix knows this and was one of their recommended picks.

    • johnleavengood permalink
      January 8, 2013 7:32 am

      You should see Perfume–simply titillating. It’s a murder-mystery with surreal sensory aspects which eclipse the supernatural obsession of The Countess.

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