The Iron Rose

A captivating fairy tale from Jean Rollin, probably the finest one of his mood-builders I’ve seen. The plot is barely there – a couple meet at a wedding, loiter around on a first date, get lost in a cemetery, and then the girl goes a bit mad.

That first date sometimes feels like an encapsulation of a life-long relationship – youthful lust, soul-baring confessions, bitter fights and reconciliations (and the suggestion of children, either dead or estranged). But the cemetery also provides a specific focus on a kind of existential crisis. The boy in particular finds it a refuge from the dirt and noise of the town. There is something very adolescent about the young lovers feeling like the only people who are really alive in their boring, provincial society. The idea is brought out rather literally in their lovemaking scenes amidst the buried skeletons. Their passion is the only quickening force in an otherwise meaningless rotting world.

But the girl takes this all a bit too literally, beginning to prefer the company of the dead to the living. There’s an interesting gender dynamic going on in the film, whereby the boy is associated with mechanical things like trains, bicycles and watches, while the girl is associated with the natural world – sea, mist, foliage. While the boy seeks to escape, thinks logically, and tries to move forward, the girl increasingly becomes a manifestation of nature, engulfing the boy in her earthly tomb. The iron rose, which is cradled by the girl a bit like Gollum with the one ring, is straightforwardly a metaphor for their relationship – bringing together the artificial and natural. It is also an emblem of their doom, a warning against the alluring but dangerous power of the sacred feminine.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant review of this timeless film. Thank you.