- Darlene Dalmaceda as “la comtesse”
- Norma Desmond (Guilliean Pacheco) as “la chanteuse d’opera”
- Griffin Dwyer as “l’accordeur de piano”
- Cassandra Taylor as “la petite amour”
- Joe Veiga as “le marquis”
Watch the Moving Storyboard
My Creative Process
I chose to interpret “The Bloody Chamber” in my own way. Initially, I thought about doing it as a short film. Due to my time and location limitations, I knew I could not stage a simple interpretation of the book. Instead, I decided to strip it down and put it to music and photographs.
I would like to think that this “moving storyboard” could serve as the focal point of a feature film with some artistic license. The strength of the overall message is not lost while watching the short. It merely adds another dimension while consuming the text.
One thing that the reader notices when consuming “The Bloody Chamber” is the images that Angela Carter bombards you with. Mary Kaiser notes that
“Carter uses the language of the story not to lull the reader into ignoring the dangers posed by Bluebeard but instead to heighten the reader’s awareness of the threat posed by the sadomasochistic underpinnings of much of decadent culture, which created a dangerously passive and readily victimized feminine ideal” (3).
I had hoped that this storyboard would be a springboard into exploring this “victimized feminine ideal” in talking format. The power you could embrace by exploring this on film would make for a powerful message. The photographs capture the story just as well as any film. The moving storyboard presentation gives a visual representation of this message.
One thing I must confess is that I chose the music before I took the photographs. I put my iPhone on shuffle and chose songs that I felt made the story come alive to me.
I chose five scenes from the book, not including the opening and closing credits: the scene with the narrator leaving her mother’s home, the Marquis’s home and the loss of the girl’s virginity, the first meeting between the chatelaine and the piano tuner, the discovery of the previous brides, the attempted execution of the chatelaine, and the murder of the marquis.
I felt that
- “Dreamboat Annie” by Heart,
- “Map of the Problematique (Does It Offend You, Yeah? Remix)” by Muse,
- “Together” by the Raconteurs,
- “With Every Heartbeat” by Robyn, and
- “Take a Bow” by Muse
fit the scenes that I read in the book perfectly.
Choosing the songs before filming, it helped me compose the photographs in my head. No matter what I am creating, I must always listen to music. It is so important that if I listen to the wrong song, it could throw my entire creative process off. Kari Lokke argues that
“The Bloody Chamber is a contemporary transformation of that quintessentially grotesque motif, the dance of death and the maiden, a modern, feminist transformation in which for once the maiden is victorious over death itself. In fact, it is the interpenetration of death with such richly positive facets of life – wealth, beauty, youth, and sexuality – that gives the symbolism of this novella its grotesque and uncanny power” (9-10).
I embraced the grotesque even with the limitations that I placed on myself. The music I chose was not particularly grotesque but lent itself to the text so flawlessly that it added to the motif Lokke points out.
The song for the opening credits is “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” by Florence + The Machine, which I think sets the stage for the whole piece. My primary goal was to get a picture of the highway sign that progressively shows the miles until Las Vegas. Only two were between the state line from California to the city limits. In between obtaining the mileage signs, I drove and took pictures of everything in between Primm, Jean, speed limit signs, and interesting views you would see as a driver or passenger of a car.
I know that being preoccupied with filming while driving was stupid of me, but I could not think of another way to do it. I suppose I could have gotten a second shooter, but then the final product would be inauthentic. I could not use another’s photographs for my project and call it my own. I could have gotten a driver but again, inauthentic. I wanted to get photographs you take when you are alone, and there is nothing but you, the wide-open desert, and a nice camera.
The first scene of the storyboard is when the girl and her mother say their goodbyes. It says how simple it is: the open suitcase and her things in it. I chose “Dreamboat Annie” by Heart because it acknowledges the rift that the mother knew was growing between them since the girl’s wedding. Mother is singing to her daughter, reassuring her that she will always be there. One thing that must be remembered is that
“the teenage heroine, however unworldly, cannot claim ignorance of the scandal surrounding the Marquis’s marital history, even if its particulars are as yet unknown to her” (Barzilai, 106),
yet she goes. Her mother tries to second-guess her daughter in this scene in the book almost passive-aggressively. Being a powerful, unconquerable woman, the mother could have easily kept her daughter under lock and key for as long as she wanted. The bride saw her marriage as a way to escape the shadow of her mother.
As noted by Becky McLaughlin,
“the female fears the sameness of the mother because of its threat to her subjectivity.”
I thought the idea of her mother’s legacy could be something that could be photographed, which is why I used the tiger in the “jungle” to be representative of her, rather than employing another actress to play the mother. The tiger represents the sort of woman that the bride will never be.
She wishes to escape the shadows of this tiger by marrying the Marquis, which is what McLaughlin is saying. By including it as the last frame in their goodbye scene, it foreshadows the idea that the girl herself is going to become hunted.
The song used in the next scene is “The Earth Shook the Devil’s Hand” by Sophie Ellis-Bextor. I was going to go with “Map of the Problematique (Does It Offend You, Yeah? Remix)” by Muse. But “Earth” is more stripped down and plaintive than the pumped-up remix of “Problematique.” I live in Southwest Las Vegas in a community called Rhodes Ranch. They are expensive, custom-made homes. I imagine the Marquis to own an independent hotel on the Strip. If he could live in any gated community near the Strip, he would definitely choose Rhodes, if not the Scotch 80s.
He would live in one of the (formerly) million-dollar homes without a second thought. I drove down the street and took shots of the model homes near the sales center. They have a model where the third floor is the master bedroom suite. The bookshelves in the scene are mine. And yes, the Victorian erotica book is from my personal collection. The lilies in this scene were from my last trip home to Northern California. I drove up Highway 1 with my best friends, and we came across a beach. The walkway down had wild calla lilies growing near the stream. I was so preoccupied with getting the other photographs that I nearly forgot about the lilies.
I was not interested so much in the sexual violence that clearly pervades the text, but I did want to allude to it. I purposefully subtitled it “A Moving Storyboard” to give me the artistic license. A full-blown script or film could not shy away from the violence and claim to be based on the book. Lisa Probst, quoting Marina Warner, stated that Carter’s emphasis was on the
“sexual charge of the ‘Bluebeard’ stories over their more commonly cited moral, a warning against female curiosity. She writes that the nineteenth-century caricaturist Alfred Crowill ‘featuring a key so monstrous in size that Bluebeard’s young wife staggers under its weight like one of Beardsley’s obscene marginalia” (5).
Due to the sexually violent imagery Carter’s interpretation gave, the female curiosity moral is almost a second thought when reading the story. I wanted to find a happy medium between the original moral intent as anticipated by Charles Perrault and embrace the implied sexual violence without exploiting my actors.
I decided to expand on the small paragraph about the blind piano tuner’s arrival at the chateau by making it into an emotional mutual seduction. The song “Together” by The Raconteurs embodies the right kind of love that she should have had in the first place. Aytül Özüm notes that
“to the reader’s surprise, the young chatelaine becomes the blind piano-tuner’s beloved immediately after realising what will happen to her when the Marquis arrives” (5).
However, we do not see this attraction played out in the story until their second meeting after her discovery of the brides. Rather than trying to film that fleeting scene, I wanted to explore the magnetism when they first met.
She was so preoccupied with being the chatelaine of the house that she was as blind as he was physically when it came to true love. I make this assumption based on the story being told from her point of view. You oftentimes do not see something like true love if you are not looking.
Out of all the scenes I filmed, the discovery of the previous brides is my favorite. This scene is my darling because it was the most challenging. The key and the door opening were easy to compose. But assembling the brides was difficult. Rather than going all out and having these three women in their proper forms of death, I had to gloss them over with a Vegas slant to them. I recruited my best friend Darlene to play the Romanian countess. Obviously, I could not fake an iron maiden but I could fake blood.
My final creative project for Outlaw Genres was called “Seven Sins of the Sisters.” It was me capturing the sins and virtues as taught by the Catholic Church. I used a “bloody” knife in a bathroom sink for wrath. The blood was chocolate sauce, which is what is dripping down the corner of her mouth. Initially, I was going to put a gag in my mouth to represent the opera singer but I thought a more powerful image would be of a pop star being strangled by her mic. I bought a skull on eBay to play the evening star walking on the rim of the night but it did not arrive in time to shoot. So I Photoshopped a skull, some lines, and the crown of white roses she wears in death instead. Robin Sheets tells us that
“the Marquis’s bloody chamber recalls several rooms in Justine, such as the monks’ pavilion, which is reached through a winding underground tunnel and filled with ‘scourges, ferules, withes, cords, and a thousand other instruments of torture,’ and Roland’s subterranean cave, which is hung with skulls, skeletons, bundles of whips, and collections of sabers” (16).
I had to give keep this in mind when staging a Vegas luster to the scene.
Patricia Brooke notes that
“Carter’s fairy tale heroines survive both within their narratives and our collective cultural experience, enduring mental abuse, physical violence, and humiliation by refusing to be intimidated by, and even at times prevailing over social stereotypes and sexist ideologies that limit their subjectivity” (2).
It can be argued that this scene with the previous brides caused our young bride to mature in a way that the reliability of time could not. Our chatelaine knows that this is the fate the Marquis has in store for her if she lets him exert his control over her further.
She knows that she must survive in some way. Brooke argues that she does not become a victim in an expected way. She rebelled and embraced a sense of survival unknown to women at the time period in which the story was placed, the turn of the century France.
During pre-production, I knew immediately that the slow burn of “Take a Bow” by Muse would have to be used during the execution scene. It embodies the fear that the chatelaine would be feeling. She could have quite easily become his next victim, yet she outwits him without realizing it. That is the latent power that Angela Carter seized on when a reader comprehends the state of mind of the chatelaine. De La Rochere and Heidmann mention that Carter created “The Bloody Chamber” by translating “Le barbe Bleue” by Charles Perrault in 1976.
What is notable is that
“she eliminates the reference to n’en déplaise au sexe” [may the gentler sex not be offended] in the first Moralité. She deliberately avoids associating curiosity with women and thus repeating the old sexist topos, to address an ungendered reader” (49).
Removing the original interpretation allows a modern reader to see the story from a new point of view. That is the mark of a good story, that it can be translated and presented in a way that can fit the time period in which it is read, regardless of where it was conceived and historically placed.
You might take note of the physical locations of the murder scene as well as the aesthetics. I wanted to play up the fact that the Marquis is seeing red. The Marquis is surrounded by greenery, flowers, and a huge palm tree. The young bride is in the desert.
It is a psychological representation of their mindsets. The Marquis will enjoy decapitating her; therefore he is psychologically in an environment you never see in Las Vegas unless it is false. Meanwhile, the chatelaine is knee-deep in the reality of the desert landscaping, awaiting her fate.
Joe Veiga, the man I photographed to represent the marquis, embodies the image that Bluebeard might have conjured up when Angela Carter placed the story. Marina Warner wrote that because of
“the blueness of his protagonist’s beard, Perrault intensifies the frightfulness of his appearance: Bluebeard is represented as a man against nature, either by dyeing his hair like a luxurious Oriental, or by producing such a monstrous growth without resorting to artifice” (124-125).
I chose Joe (who also happens to be my supervisor at work) based on his creepy appearance. His physical features lend themselves to this description provided by Warner. Joe is from Cuba and still possesses a thick accent. He truly was the ideal Marquis for this project.
The closing credits are set to “Everything is Everything” by Phoenix. It is sort of a throwaway track. I saw Phoenix at the Hard Rock a few months ago. I like how the breezy wistfulness of the song fits the closing of the short story. It gives you hope that the girl, her mother, and the piano tuner will have a happy life together, spending the Marquis’ money and living in Las Vegas.
You might be wondering how I came up with the name. I named it after the Sugababes’ song “Little Lady Love (About 2 Remix).” I included it in the accompanying mixtape, but because of the mood of it I did not include it. It is a little sassier than I wanted. The Sugababes recorded the song around the same age as our chatelaine. It represents what the bride thinks she is. There are many young girls who think they are experienced when they are still innocent creatures who need to be protected, as our bride was.
Out of all the stories I have read for classes this semester, I would always return to “The Bloody Chamber.” Something about a young girl who uses marriage to escape seemed fascinating to me. I am well past the young girl’s age, but I see a lot of myself in her. I probably would have married young to escape my parents’ umbrella if I had been given that chance.
By combining my two loves of photography and music, I am exorcising my own demons creatively. If ever I needed a slap in the face about significant others, it would be because of this story and this project. Any man I choose to be my husband could not possibly be any worse than the Marquis.
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