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DVD Review

DVD cover

Bathory: Countess of Blood


Starring: Anna Friel, Karel Roden and Hans Matheson
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 15
Available 07 March 2011

Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed (7 August 1560 - 21 August 1614) was a Slovakian princess with, historically, a bad reputation for bathing in the blood of virgins to maintain her youth and beauty. However, this may not have been the truth...

Bathory: Countess of Blood (2008 - 2 hrs, 14 min, 46 sec) is a revisionist historical drama directed by Juraj Jakubisko, who also produced the script. The film won best art direction at the 2009 Czech Lions, with Anna Friel nominated for best actress as well as F.A. Brabec Ján Duris picking up a nomination for Best Cinematography. The film represents one of the most expensive Czechoslovakian films ever made.

Although, it is not a wholly unsuccessful film, Bathory (Anna Friel), suffers from a lack of focus. It starts as a possible reappraisal of her character, not as a stable mate of Vlad the Impaler, but as a woman ahead of her time, subject to the whims of the men who surround her and fighting to assert her own right to rule. So far so good, the first half of the film certainly appears to be heading in that direction, but halfway through the director appears to have abandoned this idea and moved Bathory back towards the myth, away from the reality.

We follow Bathory through from her marriage, whilst still a child, to her later life where her husband spends much of his time holding back the Islamic invasion for Christendom. He is as brutal on the field as he is in the bedroom and when Bathory is raped by her husband she loses her first child who, for some reason never explained, she keeps fresh in a block of ice. Whilst her husband is away, killing infidels, she falls for the Baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (Hans Matheson), though I’m not sure that historically the two ever really met.

It is at this point that the film diverges from its original intent with the introduction of the witch Darvulia (Deana Horváthová), following which we are presented with a number of images, Bathory in the bath, a bath that is as red as blood, the colour apparently derived from a herb and Bathory providing her maid with a weapon, of self-protection, which creates wounds which resemble vampire bites. These are taken by Juraj Thurzo (Karel Roden) and used to pressure Bathory into giving up position and power following the death of her husband.

The film is not helped by the obvious language barrier. Rather than have the main cast speak their own language and have Anna Friel either dubbed or having to learn her lines in a foreign language, they have all the other non-English speaking cast trying their best to speak English, and in many cases it’s obvious that this is not their first language.

What the film does have on its side is the beautifully shot countryside and its attention to period detail in the costumes. Where the film fails is in its attempt to put the historical record straight, rather than a well-researched script what is presented here is just as ridiculous as the accepted version of her life.

The disc is well served by some decent extras. The Making of (26 min, 51 sec) has a fair set of behind the scenes footage as well as the usual set of cast and crew who all let us know how much they loved making the film. There are a number of deleted scenes (7 min, 14 sec), the disc wraps up with theatrical trailers (2 min, 09 sec; 1 min, 08 sec; and 1 min, 07 sec), a photo gallery and a music video (3 min, 51 sec).

If only the film had kept to its original intent it may have produced something which would feel less fractured than Bathory.


Charles Packer

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