Jakubisko Film s.r.o.  › Media  ›  10.8.2009
Variety review's July 7, 2008

10.8.2009
Variety review's July 7, 2008

Veteran Slovak helmer Juraj Jakubisko lets his imagination run wild in "Bathory," an unwieldy gothic fairy tale thattries to demystify the titular Hungarian countess famous for bathing in virgins' blood. Director's first Englishlanguagepic stars Anna Friel as the woman with the strange hygiene habits, but the British thesp is frequently eclipsed by Jakubisko's sheer visual magic. Campy asides, nudity and plentiful foreign accents will make this a hardsell as a straight forward Anglophone epic. Beyond Central Europe, exposure will be limited to festivals and thetube.

"The fewer the facts, the more plentiful the legend," says the narrator, wise monk Petr (Bolek Polivka). It's asuitably ironic intro to a revisionist apologia for a misunderstood Renaissance woman, and it's also in keeping withthe helmer's ongoing exploration of the area between reality and fantasy. Divided into three parts of about 45minutes each (perfect for a miniseries), the pic aims to restore some dignity to the woman dubbed history's mostprolific murderess.

In the first part, set in the late 16th century, countess Erzsebet Bathory (Friel) romances girl-shy Italian painterCaravaggio (Hans Matheson), even though she's married to the powerful Ferenc Nadasy (Vincent Regan). Part two,set in the early 17th century, focuses on the relationship between the still young-looking countess and mysterioushealer Darvulia (Deana Jakubiskova, the helmer's wife and one of pic's producers) as regional tensions mount afterthe Turks are finally defeated.

A conspiracy to remove Bathory from power after she becomes a widow wraps things up in part three, with PalatineThurzo (Karel Roden) leading the charge.

One of the most expensive Central European productions ever, pic is baroque by any standard, though the title roleis severely underwritten: The negation of Bathory's claim to fame is a nice angle, but can't substitute for propercharacter development. In his eagerness to show how Bathory was pushed around by forces beyond her, Jakubiskoloses sight of the countess herself.

Friel's performance doesn't help. She looks fab in the dazzling period garb and hair, but fails to make the audiencecare about her fate. Other actors fare better in smaller roles, though even they occasionally take a backseat to thevisual delights and gothic gore (severed heads, burnt witches, frozen babies). Battle scenes are spectacularly staged,but their direct connection to Friel's character is only slight.

Laid-back attitude toward nudity and some over-the-top comic relief (mostly involving Petr, a cross between SeanConnery's monk in "The Name of the Rose" and James Bond's Q) are both typically Central Euro. Add in somecampy dialogue ("I can't seem to capture the curves of your body," purrs Caravaggio to the countess) and a mixedbag of accents, and pic becomes more of a cinematic curiosity than true blockbuster material, despite its scale.

Camera (color, widescreen), F.A. Brabec, Jan Duris; editor, Christopher Blunden, Patrick Pass; music, SimonBoswell, Jan Jirasek, Martin Maok Tesak; production designers, Karel Vacek, Jan Zazvorka; costume designer,Jaroslava Pecharova; sound (Dolby), Simon Gershon. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (Tribute to JurajJakubisko), July 6, 2008. Running time: 135 MIN.

Link: http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117937731.html?categoryid=31&cs=1&query=bathory

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