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October 23, 2007

The Blood Spattered Bride

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La Novia Ensangrentada
Vicente Aranda - 1972
Blue Underground Region 0 DVD

Last night I saw Vicente Aranda's film, one of several inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu's story, "Carmilla". By uncanny coincidence, Kimberly Lindbergs posted her review of Blood and Roses, the first film to adapt Le Fanu's story to a contemporary setting. I cannot discuss Vadim's version as I have only seen part of it on cable, almost twenty years ago. What was probably not coincidence is that Aranda made his version of "Carmilla" within two years of release the Hammer production, The Vampire Lovers. Aranda's version takes advantage of the newly given freedom following the changes in the MPAA ratings in 1968, combining the more explicit sex and violence of the Hammer film with Vadim's contemporary setting. One also cannot discount the interest in Le Fanu's character as a reaction to militant feminism.

Additionally, Aranda was influenced by Roman Polanski's Repulsion. This is clearly indicated in the opening scene when newlywed Susan is alone in the bridal suite while her husband is parking the car. Susan peers into an empty closet, walks away for a moment, opens it again, and a man dressed completely in black overpowers the young woman in white. When the husband finally appears, finding his bride holding herself alone on the bed, we realize the attack took place in Susan's imagination. From this point on, it is established that Susan's attitude towards sex is ambivalent at best. The husband's insensitivity further pushes Susan away.

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Aranda's Carmilla appears as Le Fanu's describes her in her wedding dress. Some of the dialogue of the film is also from Le Fanu's story. While there is a generous amount of nudity in the film, Aranda's most erotic moment, between Carmilla and Susan, is off camera. Additionally, Aranda has chosen to withhold enough information so that it is never clear whether Carmilla is actually a vampire, or someone who thinks she is one of the undead. Not hidden is the symbolism of the guns, knives and traps. By the end of the film, it is clear that The Blood Spatterd Bride is as much about masculine power and the fear of the feminine as it is about a vampire seeking revenge.

It is worth noting that Vicente Aranda is still making films at age 81. Considering Aranda's career has spanned the cultural and political changes in Spain, as well as making films in a variety of genres, Aranda is certainly a filmmaker who needs to be known by more than a couple of titles by English language film scholars.

blood spattered bride.jpg

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at October 23, 2007 02:03 PM