Herzog Blaubarts Burg
Based on the Bela Bartok opera, Bluebeard woos his women and then swiftly disposes of them.Based on the Bela Bartok opera, Bluebeard woos his women and then swiftly disposes of them.Based on the Bela Bartok opera, Bluebeard woos his women and then swiftly disposes of them.
Yes, and here's the proof.
Herzog Blaubeard's Burg or Bluebeard's Castle is a real oddity in Michael Powell's filmography. Shot in West Germany in 1963 and produced privately by singer Norman Foster, Powell became involved through the intervention of the film's production designer Hein Heckroth, who had designed some of the best Powell & Pressburger productions. For Powell it was a late chance to return to the kind of `total cinema' he and Pressburger dreamt of in their glory days at Rank, but which was impossible to create in the changed climate of the 60's. Powell's career had been derailed by a series of failed projects and the controversy of Peeping Tom. Moreover a new generation of `social realist' directors were the key players on the scene - and incredible as it might seem - Powell was now seen as an almost embarrassing throwback to outmoded values. But he wasn't about to give up and was already organising productions in Australia and directing for TV.
Still, this was the only really distinctive project he got to complete and thus it's all the more unfortunate that due to legal entanglements the film has rarely been screened outside of West Germany and is one of the most elusive titles for the hard core Powell fan.
I finally saw the film yesterday and I can report that it's a real treat. Although Heckroth and his students were responsible for the highly stylized and creative look to the piece, all materials used are synthetic, the camera work and intensity of this is pure Powell. In fact it's a total return to form.
Such a small scale piece requires great performers and both are well up to the task. Norman Foster makes a striking Bluebeard (although strangely his beard is actually auburn) and Anna Raquel Satre is a very effective Judith. Both give fine intelligent performances although Powell always thought Foster's performance was lacking in passion.
In it's darkness and other worldly beauty the film is a logical extension to The Red Shoes and Tales of Hoffman. Working in Technicolor for the first time in some years Powell creates some truly startling images, using transparent sets and back projection to give the film a magical multi layered feel.
It's all sung (in German), although apparently an English dubbed version exists, and although I'm not an opera fan, the Bartok score is quite powerful and brooding.
- Jun 2, 2003