1978 91 mins
Subtitles : English
“Both a vital addition to — and a radical departure from — the tradition of fairy tales on film” – David Melville, SENSES OF CINEMA
“A brilliant film that should now finally receive a triumphant rediscovery.” – STARBURST MAGAZINE
For this richly perverse retelling of the original fairy tale, Slovakian director Juraj Herz puts his own inimitable Gothic stamp on Beauty and the Beast, combining bold, visceral horror and understated eroticism with more traditional elements. When Julie (Zdena Studenková) tries to save her misguided father’s life by sacrificing herself at a monstrous being’s isolated lair, an unlikely romantic relationship develops. Most evident in this adaptation is the director’s trademark stamp of summoning true horror in almost every genre he worked in, with the Beast (Vlastimil Harapes) envisioned as a disturbing birdman with a bloodlust to match his horrific looks. Despite the fact she is forbidden to look at him, Julie cannot resist the Beast’s brooding, Byronic qualities; nor he, her enduring bright spirit, her bravery, her true beauty. What ensues is a tale of forbidden love and dark desire, packed with magical realism and Gothic splendor.
The film was made back-to-back with Herz’s THE NINTH HEART
(1979) under the strict control of the State-run Barrandov Studios in Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia. While the director was tasked with making a fantasy film for children, under his lens something very subversive took shape. The result allegedly caused upset families to flee cinemas, which the director later admitted to taking great joy from, even if he was summoned by the administration office to be told off for his actions. Although shot in a much more restrained style compared to his previously outwardly Gothic films THE CREMATOR
, the director piles on a decadent sense of “majestic in ruin”. Loaded up with aspects of the uncanny, the film falls much more into line with original fairy tales, which were frequently loaded with violence, sex, and horror. The film comes to Fantasia in a new 2K restoration by Národní filmový archiv, courtesy of Severin Films. – Kat Ellinger