The Countess is about the umpteenth film made about the infamous Hungarian
countess Elizabeth Bathory, who was almost a precise contemporary of William
Shakespeare and Miguel Cervantes. (Bathory 1560-1614; Shakespeare 1564-1616;
Cervantes 1547-1616). According to legend, the countess became convinced that
she could maintain her youth by bathing in the blood of virgins, and that
legend is based on charges which her contemporaries levied against her. Her
legend has grown through the centuries until she was become the female
equivalent of Dracula in modern pop culture.
Some modern historians argue that the charges were fabricated for a variety of
reasons, focusing on the fact that the countess was more powerful than the
king. Irrespective of the validity of the charges against her, the fact
remains that she was the most powerful Protestant in a Catholic country during
the era of internecine strife between Christians, and that the Hungarian king
was deeply in debt to her. Given those facts, many powerful people in Hungary,
including the ruler, would have had much to gain by getting her out of the
Most of the films made about her in the past have been sensationalist efforts
which have focused entirely on portraying her alleged sexual and violent
misdeeds in graphic detail. In the past year, however, two mainstream films
have added new spins to the Bathory oeuvre.
- The first such film was 2008's Bathory, which starred Anna Friel. The
premise of that movie was that the charges against the countess were
fabricated by her enemies, furthered by misunderstanding, and perpetuated by
the ignorance of the times. The screenwriter imagined an alternate scenario
to explain the politics which might have precipitated those charges.
- The premise of this film, which stars Julie Delpy as Bathory, is that
the charges against her were true, even though many of her enemies exploited
those charges opportunistically. The scriptwriter in this case (Julie Delpy
again) therefore focused on the circumstances which might have turned a
woman into such a monster.
Delpy was not only the author and star of this film, but she directed as well,
and she was just awful in all three capacities. Her performance is stilted and
artificial. I know that her English is normally quite good, but in this film
she sounds like she is pronouncing syllables phonetically without
understanding what they mean. I guess that was caused by her ill-advised
attempt at a Hungarian accent. And she's one of the better performers in the
film! The script is weighted down with voice-over narration and, more
important, a failure to establish any point or to accomplish anything
worthwhile. When the film ended, my first thought was, "Why did she want to
make that film in the first place?" There is some kind of pseudo-feminist
subtext, but it's truly bizarre. It basically consists of "If I had been a man
I could have killed as many people as I pleased, with impunity, and I wouldn't
have had to worry about not being pretty. Life isn't fairl" In other words,
her merciless exsanguinations of young girls represented nothing worse than
what every male aristocrat did back in the day, but those men were declared
heroes while she was labeled a monster.
OK, I guess all those murders were OK then. And I used to think that kind of
behavior was bizarre, rare, and unacceptable.
Delpy, now 40, was topless in a