Bluebeard (2009), directed by Catherine Breillat, is a film that paints a classic fairy tale in a new feminist light by spinning the tale not only to be about the consequences of curiosity like the original tale but also by telling the parallel stories of two pairs of sisters and the complex, subversive expectations of those sisterhoods and what it means to be a young girl.
Breillat’s film is a complex tale that takes on many themes. One of these themes is seen through the two youngest siblings, Catherine and Marie-Catherine, within each of the sisterhoods. Both of these young girls showcase unconventional ideas and behaviors. Catherine (from the 1950s timeline) appears to have a picturesque childhood innocence and is unafraid of the Bluebeard tale, taunting her older sister with the story (which ends in the death of the older girl). Catherine brings up unconventional views on love and even homosexuality, challenging her older sibling’s traditional views on such topics. She shows that even though she is young, she is unafraid to form her own opinions.
Then we have Marie-Catherine, the heroine of the Bluebeard tale, a curious and unafraid girl much like Catherine of the 50s but, unlike Catherine, Marie-Catherine is participating in her tale instead of just telling the story. Throughout the film, Marie-Catherine displays predatory actions, putting herself in a position of power despite the dangerous situation she appears to be in. We catch a glimpse of this in one scene where the camera moves around Bluebeard as her head pops in to watch him undress, showing that he is the vulnerable one, not her. Marie-Catherine is not prey nor a damsel in distress waiting for a prince to swoop in and save her. She uses her cunning to turn into the predator of the story and ultimately, with the help of her sister, slays Bluebeard. As the film closes with his slaughtered head on a silver plate, Marie-Catherine stares on, unfeeling.
Lyrica Baxter is an English major and film studies minor, senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She enjoys feminist films and writing experimental feminist screenplays. When she is not watching films or writing she enjoys reading, and indulging in Korean pop culture.