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Youth, Beauty and Virgin Blood in Delpy's "Countess"

Indiewire By Brian Brooks | Indiewire February 9, 2009 at 8:53AM

Julie Delpy returns to the Berlinale with a film she both stars and directs, though this film is quite different from the contemporary comedy of her last effort, "Two Days in Paris." In "The Countess," Delpy appears as the infamous 17th century aristocrat Countess Erzebet Bathory. Her obsession with eternal beauty and power has been the topic of literature throughout the centuries after she is forced to end an affair with a younger man. At a party, she meets Istvan and falls madly in love. Their daliance is short lived, however, when Istvan's father, Count Thurzo, forces his son to stop seeing Erzebet, which throws the Countess into a frenzy when she suspects her age difference was the catalyst for the Count's rebuke. Consequently, Erzebet becomes obsessed with youth and believes she can achieve immortal beauty via the spilled blood of young female virgins.
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Julie Delpy returns to the Berlinale with a film she both stars and directs, though this film is quite different from the contemporary comedy of her last effort, "Two Days in Paris." In "The Countess," Delpy appears as the infamous 17th century aristocrat Countess Erzebet Bathory. Her obsession with eternal beauty and power has been the topic of literature throughout the centuries after she is forced to end an affair with a younger man. At a party, she meets Istvan and falls madly in love. Their daliance is short lived, however, when Istvan's father, Count Thurzo, forces his son to stop seeing Erzebet, which throws the Countess into a frenzy when she suspects her age difference was the catalyst for the Count's rebuke. Consequently, Erzebet becomes obsessed with youth and believes she can achieve immortal beauty via the spilled blood of young female virgins.

"I heard about her story a long time ago and I liked the myth around her obsession with eternal beauty," commented Delpy in Berlin. "I wanted to [tell the story] more like a Greek tragedy instead of being a horror film, which is how this story is usually portrayed." In telling the story, Delpy viewed the Countess as falling on both sides of the feminist ideal.

"In a way, [the film] is feminist but also non-feminist. I think that it isn't 'feminist' to say women are perfect. There is no such thing as 'everyone being great,'" said Delpy. "We're all individuals. People say that if women ruled the world things would be perfect and I don't think that's true."

Delpy also drew parallels with contemporary society's hypnotic ifatuation with youth and beauty through the film. "People with power [today] are also exposed. You see it in the entertainment industry with plastic surgery. Some people have a fear of losing youth and beauty. Some people associate that with losing power, and I think ppeople are afraid of aging because they associate it with death - and yeah, I have that fear too."

As with her promotion of "Two Days in Paris" two years ago, Delpy energetically answered journalist questions with a very comfortable command of English, launching into verbose explanations in both English and French intermittently, even confessing that she is a bit highly strung.

"I'm hyper and psychotic and I have neuroses," she said to moments of laughter. "Yet, I'm always tired, but I don't sleep much. It's terrible to live with me."