Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty- My second year uni project!

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The version of “Sleeping Beauty” that I intend to produce will incorporate the features of the Gothic genre. The Gothic genre is laden with concepts surrounding the supernatural, the battle between corruption and innocence, terror, death, decay and insanity. The original Sleeping Beauty, depicted by Charles Perrault arguably ignores potential Gothic context and disguises it with enchantment and romance. Angela Carter’s adult fairy-tales within The Bloody Chamber collection present a new account of well-known beloved fairytales in a way that is shocking, disturbing but ultimately thought-provoking. Within my film, I want to explore the idea of the “Sleeping Beauty” not as a human form in sleeping state, but the idea of the vampire being a sleeping beauty due to the fact that he is a somnambulist. Two stories in particular from Carter’s collection have influenced the themes which feature within my film; these stories are “The Bloody Chamber[1]” and “The Lady of The House of Love”. “The Bloody Chamber” is based on the tale of Bluebeard, and respectively Sleeping Beauty.

The original Sleeping Beauty is woken with a kiss, which wakes her from her slumber; however the Lady of the House of Love’s “humanity” is woken by a kiss. I intend to turn this around and use the kiss as something quite dangerous: the vampire’s kiss will incur death. The vampire’s kiss will not be something the maiden is afraid of at first as “in Romantic fiction, they tended to be fashionably pallid and clean-shaven, with seductive voices and pouting lips and they were always sexually attractive[2].” The young female will be willing to be seduced by her beastly lover.

The aesthetic nature of my film will also use the comparable elements of the Gothic “double” whereby it will begin within a dreamy, romantic and beautiful setting but then the atmosphere will switch and appear the complete opposite: a dangerous, dark and blood-curdling experience as we descend into the depths of the vampire’s bloody dungeon. The character of the vampire is initially going to be as mysterious and left to the imagination as possible- the audience must not know what he is and what he does until the moment of exposure. I want to play on the human fear of the unknown. Such camera angles as over the shoulder shots which just reveal the dark, smart costume of the vampire from behind and the pristine nature of his hair will be shown- with full view of the fair maiden he is seducing.

The costume of the characters is pivotal to the Gothic genre; the character of the virginal maiden is going to comply truly to the archetypal nature of the damsel in distress by wearing a delicate white nightdress which enhances her vulnerability and naivety. It is also reflective of many gothic novels including Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto[3] through the character of Matilda whom is young, beautiful, pure and virtuous and is determined to put others before herself. This archetype can also be seen through the female protagonist in Carter’s The Bloody Chamber which in some respects [the wandering of winding castle corridors at night] is reproducing this Gothic theme for a different, feminist audience. The vampire is to be dressed in a luxurious appearing suave suit, just as Christopher Lee would have, in order to create an allusion to opulence which in the case of my film will be of modern opulence.

Additionally, within my film I would like to explore the idea of Gothic archetypes. David De Vore suggests that “there is always the protagonist, usually isolated either voluntarily or involuntarily. Then there is the villain, who is the epitome of evil, either by his (usually a man) own fall from grace, or by some implicit malevolence[4].” In relation to my film, the protagonist is isolated voluntarily, as the maiden is genuinely infatuated with the seductive vampire, however he is the villain. It may seem as though something is missing within this film, if I am to be following the course of Gothic archetypes- and that is the hero- where is he? Through exploration of Gothic archetypes I want to experiment with the idea of removing the handsome “prince charming” from the equation and observing whether audiences want to help the women, or whether they see the situation from the point of view of the tormented, trapped vampire?

With regards to the camera style I have been heavily influenced by Hammer Horrors of the 1970s, particularly The Brides of Dracula (1960), Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), The Scars of Dracula (1970), and Lust for a Vampire (1970) with their uses of close-up shots of fangs dripping with blood, lips, blood-shot eyes and deathly which are alternately ordinary and extraordinary. There are also minimal extravagant camera movements, and I feel that this is something that should be incorporated within my film to emphasise the Gothic element of being trapped and the concept of claustrophobia.

 

Edgar Allan Poe’s writing concerning the theme of the “death of a beautiful woman” has also influenced my film idea. I have intertwined the idea of losing a loved woman and the vampire in an attempt to portray the dual core of the vampire- how they may not just be blood-thirsty demons, and how they may have been traumatised by the experience of losing a loved one and now want to preserve beauty in the best way he can: through death. Poe’s famous poem regarding a lost love, “Annabel Lee[5]” tragically ends as he admits that he lies down by her side in her tomb by the sea. I have recreated this poem at the end of my film, as the vampire curls up to his victim in a loving manner, tenderly stroking her hair.

 

The concept of the female Gothic is also to be investigated within my film. The emergence of female authors such as Mary Shelley, Ann Radcliffe and Charlotte Bronte breathed new feminine life into the Gothic text; they allowed readers to indulge in feminine societal concerns and sexual desires. The Gothic had seen a vast amount of suppression of female sexuality and most importantly the dominance of the male within society. Understandable, my film does not allow the female victim to succeed, instead it watches the beautiful women be seduced to their deaths but this is to surprising avail. Through portraying cruel deaths of beautiful women at the hands of the seductive vampire I intend to show the vampire’s weakness- how he cannot love, how he shall forever be alone in a life that was not in his own intentions to live. With regards, to my recreation of Sleeping Beauty, despite the cruel murders resultantly his life is a mundane routine and it ends with him hopelessly caressing the women he loved.

The range of props I intend to use are going to be noticeably Gothic. The majority of the shots are going to be framed with bird cages to give the impression of being trapped, as my setting has intentions of alluding to a traditional Gothic castle, full of hidden passageways, which are linked with claustrophobia and the feeling of being abandoned. An important feature which helps align my piece with the works of Angela Carter is the pivotal feature of a ruby red choker and mirrors. The red choker and mirrors feature within The Bloody Chamber and in turn act as highly Gothic images. The choker represents those women who have escaped the guillotine whereas the women in my film have not escaped their deaths. The mirrors which are heavily present within both The Bloody Chamber [through the many mirrors surrounding the marital bed, which reflect her image several times] and The Lady of the House of Love [in stark contrast] which do not depict the image of the vampire, this will both introduce a supernatural element and a contrast between the young human and the old but, incredibly beautiful vampire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

 

  1. Carter, Angela. (1979). The Bloody Chamber. London: Vintage.
  2. Clery, E. J. (2000). Women’s Gothic: From Clara Reeve to Mary Shelley. Tavistock: Northcote House.
  3. De Vore, David. “The Gothic Novel”, The Gothic Novel http://cai.ucdavis.edu/waters-sites/gothicnovel/155breport.html
  4. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
  5. Frayling, Christopher. Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula, 1992. Faber & Faber.
  6. Lust for a Vampire (1970)
  7. Poe, Edgar Allan. Annabel Lee (1849) Published by Sartain’s Union Magazine, John Sartain.
  8. Shelley, Mary.  Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus, 1992. Wordsworth Classics.
    1. The Brides of Dracula (1960)
    2. The Scars of Dracula (1970)
    3. Walpole, Horace. (1974). The Castle of Otranto. Penguin.

 


[1] Carter, Angela. The Bloody Chamber,  1979. London: Vintage

[2] Frayling, Christopher. Vampyres: Lord Byron to Count Dracula, 1992. Faber & Faber.

[3] Walpole, Horace (1974) The Castle of Otranto, Penguin.

[4] De Vore, David. “The Gothic Novel”, The Gothic Novel http://cai.ucdavis.edu/waters-sites/gothicnovel/155breport.html

[5] Poe, Edgar Allan. Annabel Lee (1849) Published by Sartain’s Union Magazine, John Sartain.

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