Thursday, October 11, 2012

A review of "The Countess"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “The Countess”
By: Brian Cotnoir

     As a person who has a B.A. in History I find it so difficult to sit through a film that claims “Based on a True Story” because all too often when a film is, allegedly, based on a true story, important facts get lost or changed and the audience is essentially left with History that has been dumbed-down or falsified.  Now in my opinion, there is a right way and a wrong way to get away with how to tell a story that is “Based on a True Story”.  For example, James Cameron’s Oscar winning film “Titanic” told the story of a fictional couple on R.M.S. Titanic when it stuck an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage in 1912.  This is okay because the films story was SET at a real historical event, but most of the main characters the film focuses on were made up.  So the Historical significance of the event isn’t really being tarnished (much).  The characters may be made up, but at least the event and most of its facts were not.  Now let’s look at another Award Winning Film, “The Social Network”; according to the film Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook as an attempt to win back his ex-girlfriend.  This is a bullshit idea because Hollywood is making up a story that never happened about a real person and it wasn’t even the actual reason for why he created his website.  They are taking an actual story and making stuff up to make it more interesting, which is a horrible idea.  I absolutely hate it when Hollywood studios take a Historical event, and make a film filled with half-assed facts and overly romanticize it as much as possible.  So why do I have this lesson in Historical ethics in this review?  Well it will explain why the film “The Countess” pissed me off so much.             

    “The Countess” is a “biographic” film that is loosely based off the life and crimes of the 16th Century Hungarian Monarch Elizabeth Bathory.  Bathory is known most notoriously for having hundreds of virgin peasant girls drained of their blood so she could bathe in it because she believed that virgin blood kept her young.  Now, since Elizabeth Bathory has such a notorious and infamous life many Historians’ find it difficult to separate the facts from the myths.  Many Historians agree that she had an abusive childhood—some of her family had a long history of pedophilia and incest—and although it has not been 100% confirmed many Historians believe her to be a lesbian and also claim that she was known to practice witchcraft.               
    But now more importantly how did the film do with her portrayal? In my opinion this film did a horrible job representing Bathory.  One thing that annoys me about this film is that the story is told by a character who is a “former lover” of Bathory.  First of all, I don’t give a flying French Fuck about this uninteresting fool or what he has to say.  Secondly, the story is told at an extremely fast pace.  Bathory’s childhood is hardly touched upon, and they make almost no attempt to show the abuses and cruelties she went through as a child that led her to become a vicious and merciless killer.  Instead of portraying her as cruel, tyrannical, and sadistic she played as weak and down-trotten for most of the film.  The films story comes off as if it’s trying to make you feel sorry for Elizabeth Bathory. 
   Most of the films focus is on Bathory trying to win the back the heart of her young lover (the films “Narrator”) and her quest to make herself look younger.  She seems more like modern day cougar going through a midlife crisis because the 18-year-old neighbor boy doesn’t want to screw her anymore, rather than a high class noble.  The story about her practicing witchcraft and possibly being a lesbian are really played down in the film.  The film makes it appear that the woman playing the witch is the bad person who only promises to help Bathory in exchange for sexual favors.  Also they make it seem as if she does not care much for harming people and that a lot of the pain she is inflicting is for Sadomasochism, which is horribly inaccurate.  Many Historians today claim that Bathory enjoyed inflicting pain on others and got her own sexual gratification from inflicting pain on others, unlike the films portrayal where she is shown as not really caring all that much for harming others.  I couldn’t believe that they were actually portraying Bathory as a victim and a devout Christian in this film, because it was just so ridiculous.  Her sadistic side is horribly played down in the film.  I think the over-Romanization of the film has a lot to do with her positive portrayal.             
      Also the casting in this film wasn’t all that great.  Many of the actors in the film look way too young.  A lot of the cast looks like they were picked off from some college theatre group.  As a result actress Julie Delpy, who plays Bathory, looks much older in this film. The ending to the film was just insulting and I just found that there was absolutely nothing I could enjoy about this film.                                               
     I actually watched three films about Elizabeth Bathory (the others were “Bathory” & “The Blood Countess”) and I didn’t enjoy any of them, but out of the three films I watched about her I found that I hated this one the most.  A film that portrays one of history’s most notorious killers as weak and merciful should never be seen by anyone.  This is a terrible film and you should not watch it.

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