Serendipity Strikes: At the Movies With Jean Rollin’s Vampires

There is a sense of sadness to Rollin’s vampires and even at their most violent, they exhibit weaknesses (to time, to the sun, to unrequited love) that make them far more sympathetic than a typical horror movie heavy.  Clocks are often closely associated with vampires, deepening the symbolic importance of time and fate in Rollin’s world.  It’s no coincidence that one of the most iconic images from his filmography occurs in LE FRISSON DES VAMPIRES (SHIVER OF THE VAMPIRES, 1971) when a scantily clad female vampire emerges from within a grandfather clock to menace a young bride.  (Tenebrous Kate on DIRGEMAG.COM)

Think of this as a serendipitous journey.  Long-time readers of this blog may know that vampires are high among my interests.  Cf. the “Casket Girls,” several stories of whom have been published in various places jean-rollin-part-1-feature(see, e.g., August 4 2016, April 28 2015, et al.).  But also an interest in surrealism (February 20 2015, June 22 2014, others), and a chance link back to my own post on “Sweet Lesbian Vampire Love” (August 14 2016) reminded me of a place where these are combined, in the French-language films of Jean Rollin with 1968’s LE VIOL DU VAMPIRE (RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE) an early example.  Then enter DIRGEMAG.COM, linked to in the August 14 post, and another completely different article, “Sex, Death, and the Psychedelic Madness of Jean Rollin,” by Tenebrous Kate.

As it happens, I have a number of Rollin’s films in my own collection (I may re-watch RAPE OF THE VAMPIRE tonight!), but rather than describe things myself, I’ll simply suggest reading Tenebrous Kate’s piece by pressing here.  And to close, I’ll quote two more paragraphs from it, these ones on settings (and not without noting another connection in the second, echoing perhaps an interest parallel to my own TOMBS: A CHRONICLE OF Rollin-ViolLATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH, albeit in maybe a different direction.  But who can resist a good graveyard, eh?).

Rollin’s films are set far from the noise and action of the city, in isolated and frequently old-fashioned settings.  Beaches, with their endlessly cycling tides and cleansing ocean waters, are places of death and rebirth.  Scenes of vampires risking exposure to the sun at dawn on the rocky shores of Normandy figure prominently in Rollin’s films.  Centuries-old country châteaux hold terrible secrets and can be interpreted to symbolize the nobility of France’s past.  These buildings are populated by strange and often supernatural characters who reflect the opulent decay of their surroundings.

Perhaps most noteworthy of all are Rollin’s cemeteries: overgrown with weeds, gates rusted and creaking, these cities of the dead are transitional places between the everyday world and that of the supernatural.  Cemeteries are places where the living and the dead occupy the same space, a fact that Rollin uses for maximum symbolic impact.  Characters arrange secret graveyard rendezvous, only to uncover secrets that appear in the form of treasures, gateways, or menacing monsters.

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