Country: BELGIUM/FRANCE/WEST GERMANY
Les lèvres rouges
Blood on the Lips
Children of the Night
The Promise of Red Lips
The Red Lips
The traditions of the horror genre and those of art cinema are not the mutually opposed spheres of representation that one might at first glance think. Both horror and art films share an interest in transgression. These transgression’s might be political, social or cultural, but the form they normally take is through expressions of violence and sexuality. Art films sometimes use this thematic trajectory for a grander metaphysical or philosophical vision, whereas horror films enjoy the mess. The horror film takes pleasure in the breakdown and revels in the gooey stuff, but ultimately there is recuperation and conservatism. Radicalism and challenges to taboos are far more common in art films. But this is not to say that horror films cannot highlight a political or social anxiety, they just very rarely offer ideas to remedy the problems that have arisen - aside from the mindless destruction of the threat. These distinctions and commonalities are important things to consider when discussing Harry Kumel’s 1971 film Daughters of Darkness, because this is one of the few films that successfully cross pollinates the two forms.
One of the most surprising elements of this film is the sheer grotesquery of Stefan. This is a violent and abusive man, with an unsavoury interest in dead bodies, who gets incredibly excited when the Countess describes in graphic detail torture techniques, techniques we know full well she has performed on countless victims. The sexual tension and eroticism is consistently allied to violence, which is one of the more troubling and problematic elements of the film. Stefan is aware of the threat the Countess poses and acts in the only way he knows; through violence and intimidation. It is this decision which costs him his life, and I for one was glad to see the back of him. The exploration of power and seduction is thoughtful, and there is no place for misogynistic machismo in the Countess’s world.
© Shaun Anderson 2010