Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. Albeit, in “The Countess” the truth is not totally known.
“The Countess” tells the true story of Erzsebet/Elizabeth Bathory, a brilliant countess from a noble family in Hungary. The story claims that she is one of the most prolific serial killers of all time, with her kill count in the hundreds (possibly up to 650+). But since all accounts of her story were recorded either by the people that eventually imprisoned her, or from word of mouth, the actual number of victims is unknown. But we do know that when she was eventually caught and tried, she was accused of 80 deaths…still a pretty high number.
The film opens with our Countess as a young girl, learning the harsh truths of life as a Noble, including a “behind the scenes” affair as a teenager that results in her lover being tortured right in front of her, to death. In adulthood we find her betrothed to Franz Nadasdy, a warrior. Upon Nasady’s death, and feeling old and “put out to pasture”, she becomes fixated with youth. Dangerously so, when she stumbles upon the idea that pure virgin blood acts as a regeneration agent for her skin. Village peasant girls begin to disappear in the night, and bodies start to pile up once she engineers a “bleeding machine” in her castle. When family members of nobility start to disappear as well, concern is raised.
The Countess Bathory is played by Julie Delpy ( Frankenstein series), and the film is also directed by her. She commands attention while in this role, and actually out-acts almost all of her co-stars. This is probably the only real gripe I have with the film. Even William Hurt gets out-shined by Delpy, even though he is an engaging character. Delpy plays both versions of the countess with guile. Both the genius, pre-feminist political figure, and the stark-raving mad woman. Once her downward spiral starts, it doesn’t let up, and Delpy plays the character flawlessly…all the way to the end.
This one wont be for everyone. It’s a bit slow, and there isn’t a ton of gore. But the story is told in a docu-drama style, from the perspective of one of Bathory’s post-widow romances. The costumes and setting are all fantastic and top-tier. As well as the castles, and interior shots. The film is really interesting to look at, and this is one of the reasons I didn’t particularly get bored through the long dialog sequences.
The darker, gorier parts are all fantastic. Sometimes the camera cuts away from the action, and leaves your mind to fill in the blanks of what is occurring just off camera. Just the sight of her “bleeding machine” brings images to your mind of what happens once she loads a poor virgin peasant into it.
Give this one a shot, especially if you like historical fiction pieces.