Anyone familiar with the works of Polish film director Walerian Borowczyk will no doubt identify his craft with his overtly pornographic imagery. Docteur Jekyll et les femmes, is no different to this association and one would be forgiven for misinterpreting this movie for its blatant sexual depiction and depravity of the female form that is on display throughout the narrative. Yet, this is also part of its genius and the reason that it won over many critics and why Borowczyk walked away with the coveted Best Feature Film Director award at the 1981 Sitges Film Festival.
Based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella, The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Borowczyk brings the subject material down to its core animalistic roots, namely sex and violence, and how the ‘Mr Hyde’ that remains buried in our inner human traits, can be brought to the surface and inflicted on all those around you, if you are drawn to do so.
This is Dr Jekyll’s (Udo Kier) secret and one he wishes to harbour from his socialite guests, but like any drug, it is hard to contain, and when the drive becomes greater than the human will, then it will break to the surface and ultimately be the ruin of everyone.
If anything, the film is a social commentary on the oppression that we inflict on ourselves in order to ‘fit in’ to what is accepted and any such inhibitions should be kept hush hush, only to be carried out behind closed doors. One of Jeckyll’s guests, General Carew (Patrick Magee) has his own sexual fantasies towards his daughter and this becomes the subject of ridicule from Mr Hyde.
Throughout the film, Jekyll is betrothed to Miss Fanny Osborne (Marina Pierro) and appears to be reserved about this engagement. The irony however is that the sexually curious Osborne uncovers his dark secret and rather than being repulsed, is drawn into his carnal sin, immersing herself into the pool of eroticism and accompanies him on this dark and devious journey on the brink of human existence.
If you are unaware of Borowczyk’s films, then don’t be deterred by what the initial images on display but rather bide your time, as the result is a spotlight on our venereal and lustful acts and how gothic literature can be the perfect subject to bring the taboo to the fore.
- Saul Muerte