It had been a while since I'd watched a new (to me) Jean Rollin film. After my less than savory experience with Da Hip Hop Witch yesterday, I really needed to class up my act. Even the previous few films I'd watched, while amazing and beautiful and perfect in every way, were so campy that my frontal lobe was going on strike. Such is the case every time I indulge deeply into any one particular type of cinema for too long. Once movies that have made the IMDB's bottom 100 come into play, I'm basically in a celluloid induced coma until I allow my eyeballs to absorb something a little more sophisticated and whimsical. That being said, I decided it was finally time to experience and enjoy Jean Rollin's the Iron Rose.
I say "experience and enjoy" with certainty as I have observed that Rollin, even at his weakest, has the ability to create a frightening and alluring world that's both haunting and enticing. I've yet to be disappointed by any of his films and Iron Rose, though unique and beautiful in it's own way, was no different.
An amazing little French cottage we see for just a moment at the beginning of the film.
A young man and woman meet at a wedding party. They're instantly attracted to each other and decide to go on a biking date the following day. They meet and ride around for hours. Their chemistry is wildly passionate through the screen. They end up in a large provincial cemetery and decide to explore it on foot. They find an underground crypt where they descend to make love. Their entire relationship up until this point is very sweet and romantic. After they've exited the tomb, night has fallen and they both appear a bit anxious about it. As they they head back in the direction from which they came they realize that nothing is familiar. It's pitch black and they're surrounded by graves for what seems like an infinity. The girl begins to panic and displays extreme erratic mood swings. The stress of the situation combined with the girl's drastic hysterics cause the young man's behavior to radically change as well. After a violent outburst towards each other, the girl, defeated and seemingly deranged, tags along while the young man attempts to find their way out. The romantic and dreamlike date has turned into a nightmarish purgatory of fear and confusion.
While it's never directly addressed there's a real sense of death having already befallen them in the frustration of their search for the cemetery gates. Whenever I see this kind of disorientation in a horror movie setting, I generally associate it with a lack of willingness to accept the hereafter. The idea of a graveyard with no exit is about as strong a metaphor as I could possibly conceive. Once you examine the film with this in mind, the crypt where they make love appears to be a metonymy for their looming mortality.
This theory may be a stretch but apart of the beauty of Rollin's films is the wonderment that they leave you with. What at first glance may seem like nothing more than your run of the mill European erotic horror movie, ends up leaving you feeling a wisftul sense of melancholy. I would also like to add that I adore the way Rollin films women. Whether they're nude or fully clothed, they're sexual beings and not sexual objects. For films with such heavy sensual themes, I find this both noble and impressive.
The Iron Rose was Jean Rollin's first non-vampire film. A beautiful example of his ability to create atmosphere in an equally as haunting yet less genre-specific domain. A wonderful start to a more extensive body of work, all of which should be studied and admired. The Iron Rose was just what I needed to wash the taste of poorly executed SOV contemporary garbage out of my mouth. I cannot wait until my next "first viewing" of a Jean Rollin film!