Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Film Review: Cat People

The fourth film we watched from the ‘Shapeshifters’ film programme was Jacques Tourneur’s ‘Cat People’ released in 1942.

The story follows a young serbian women Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) who fears her ancestral blood line of being a satanic cat woman. She eventually falls in love with a young man Oliver Reed (Kent Smith) and marries him but unfortunately it doesn't last and Irena stalks Oliver's new lover. Towards the end of the film Irena kills a doctor who she has been visiting only to be wounded and then killed by a panther she releases in the zoo.

Unlike the films we've seen throughout the programme so far, Cat people uses very little in the way of any transformation. 

 "...with developments of surprises confined to psychology and mental reactions, rather than transformation to grotesque and marauding characters for visual impact on the audiences."

Without the physical transformation that carries out in most films of this genre, many of the characters believe that Irena is being paranoid about her ancestry or the risks that are involved with being in love with her. Her lover Oliver, believes her stories to be fairy tales that she has somehow forced herself to believe are real and recommends she sees a doctor. This is paranoia and fear at their best. Due to the psychological damage she has caused herself Irena's stories, although prove to be true, are considered to be no more than just stories and this cause her to be afraid to do a lot of things that are considered normal, like falling in love. Irena effectively has become a 'scaredy cat'.

Due in most part to Irena's fears and paranoia, her capacity to share herself openly and her capacity to love become very limited.

""Cat People" is constructed almost entirely out of fear."

Tourneur exploits the psychological effects of metamorphosis quite well in this film, such as exploring the ideas that Irena, if she gave into her temptations and lust, may allow her supposed predatory instincts loose or that cats seem to have behavioural issues towards her as if she were a cat herself and they were fighting.

Omens play a part in this as well and appear at moment when something terrible or frightening is about to happen. A good example of this is in the scene when Irena is playing with her pet bird. Just before it dies we see the shadow of the bird fluttering around the mouth of a painting of a panther.

 "...this 1940s classic offers more subtle chills."

However these omens tend to blend in well with the surroundings of the film making them difficult to spot, Tourteur makes them subtle so that when we find them, the audience will being to feel the suspense build up and the effect of the terrible deed become that more frightening.

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