THE COUNTESS, a French-German, historical, gothic, drama that I’m also going to classify as a horror film and quite possibly lingers in the fairytale arena very fleetingly is fierce with a sullen vitality dwelling in the broken façade that is ultimately the unattainable credo known as the Fountain of Youth. Initially, I wasn’t taken with it due to the quick pacing in the beginning, but once the heart of the story took root, my mind melded into electrifying submission. Ah familiarity in the dark twisted fate of a heartbroken woman, yes I’m quietly feeling such hurt, so it’s evoked a strange parallel of you can either A. go down the dark road, or B. move on and heal. Clearly the Countess Erzebet Bathory played by (Julie Delpy) goes down road A, so living vicariously through her warped mentality is still strangely gratifying for the heart and imagination. Dwelling in the fantasy of pain and seeking a solution to medicate such agony, well hells bells I can write my life’s memoirs on such experiences, minus not living in a massive castle with a kickass army, who everyone fears.
Such as the story goes, having a love affair with a younger man (Istvan) with purity and promise is attractive to any 39 old woman (Erzebet), who’s been dealt a shit hand in personal life in terms of attaining happiness. Needless to say she’s survived quite a few hardships and has succumbed to being a fearless, stoic, badass. I admire that, I really do. The only thing is she’s successful but not truly happy, yet finding a solace in young love is naïve and there’s definite hope in such a thing despite the odds against her. Alas the heart wants what the heart wants and dammit it will defy all rational thought which is obviously the biggest flaw the Countess is struggling with internally and externally. In fact, my favorite quote the Countess retorts, “Love is the dagger that stabbed in me in the back.” Oh touché, doll. Dramatic, yes. To the point even so. But to chop a lock of hair from your beloved and then cut open the skin above your heart to nestle such hair and then sew it up, that’s pure madness. Intriguing, but pure madness.
She really takes her pain and power to the extreme, feeding her delusions to the extent of sacrifice and mostly murdering young virgins so she can smear their blood all over her body to feel and “appear” youthful. And utilizing her position and power, that’s exactly where the cancer of corruption is born. Of course it only goes so far until a former suitor Gyorgy Thurzo (William Hurt) who initially tried to propose marriage but was passed over and rejected for his younger son, Istvan Thurzo (Daniel Brühl) who inadvertently shattered the Erzebet’s heart. I feel like its all one massive misunderstanding that could have potentially been remedied if a certain ego wasn’t in the way. But alas ego was protecting pride which mingled with status and ultimately becomes enslaved to power and protecting it through any means necessary, well there’s corruption again. Damn, people with ego and power really do mess people up. It’s like a sick, twisted merry-go-round and people rarely fall off that thing unless pushed or killed.
Of course if I fall down the never-ending philosophical rabbit hole of free will and the idea of cause and effect then I will some how manage to find a really offbeat way of trying to marry this to THE MATRIX. I’m stopping myself right now, and for argument’s sake will guise my theory that grief makes us all do things that manifests in strange, and at times an incessant need to do uncontrollable things in order to feel some kind of control in our lives. So here’s my radical equation:
Heartbroken + Inescapable Void = Uncontrollable Grief
I have to hand it to Julie Delpy for writing, directing, and starring in this formidable endeavor, bringing Erzsébet Báthory’s story to life because I knew absolutely nothing on the existence of this human being. Whether any of these circumstances were based on her actual life is another matter, but as a filmmaker she brings the fire. I have much praise for such stoicism, laced with skillful, stark sequences that genuinely bring her torment to light. Delpy’s expressions, and mannerisms are just pure joy to watch because of this fearful edge she brings to Báthory. I’m just so amazed at her performance as it permeates with the “I’m dead inside” look but also I’m going to find joy no matter how demented it seems to others all the while, the one quote to her unfeeling, curious, pitiless, undoing as she states earlier, “A woman’s weakness is in her heart.”