chapter  2
14 Pages

Bluebeard in the cities

The use of an urban setting in two 21st-century films
WithLawrence Jackson

This chapter looks at how the Bluebeard fairy tale is updated by two distinctive films, Jane Campion’s In the Cut and Andrea Arnold’s Red Road. The attraction held by the Bluebeard fairy tale for its many adapters grows out of the aesthetic and moral tension created by, on the one hand, its capacity to thrill and, on the other, its ability to raise philosophical questions about the nature of obedience. Heidi Lee Douglas’ short film Little Lamb positions the Bluebeard story as a naturalistic Gothic thriller, set in 1829 in a women’s prison in Van Diemen’s Land, present-day Tasmania. Little Lamb is an ethnographic take on Bluebeard where the deeper one ventures into the wilderness, the more unthinkable the atrocities. Susanna Moore’s novel ends with the death of its narrator at the hands of its Bluebeard, whereas Campion’s film has a different ending.