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Barbarella - Roger Vadim (1968) - Film Review

Barbarella - Roger Vadim (1968) - Film Review

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Published by Jake Bryant

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Categories:Types, Reviews, Film
Published by: Jake Bryant on Oct 21, 2012
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05/14/2014

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Film Review

Space & Environment

Barbarella
Director: Roger Vadim

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‘Barbarella’ is a 1968 science fiction films directed by Roger Vadim. The film is based on the ‘Barbarella’ comics by French illustrator, Jean-Claude Forest, and features the story of a highly sexual woman who must travel in a far future to find a man by the name of Duran Duran, encountering many unusual and imaginative beings along the way. The film is extremely notable for its use of bold colour, and the sexual themes that are consistent through the films running. ‘Barbarella’ is truly reflective of a production made during the 1960’s, portraying many similar themes to the summer of love which happened a year before the films release. Politics, creative expression, psychoactive drugs, and sexual freedom are all defining themes which exist within the film, and are present through the different societies Fonda’s character experiences. In turn, these elements develop into excessive virtues which can be directly linked to their time period. The corresponding themes produced enchanting ideas that are imaginatively developed to fit well within this creative, inventive future. “Barbarella couldn't exist in any era but the 1960s and its delightful over-the-top qualities find an ideal expression in the ridiculous excesses of the time.” (Vaux, 2012)

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However, ‘Barbarella’ wasn’t without its flaws. The resourceful themes and profound colourful world were arguably the essentials that produced the films success, but these fundamentals weren’t enough to rescue the films hollow narrative and the clutter of confusion within its plot. The attracting opening reveals a seductive anti gravity strip tease from film beauty, Jane Fonda, during the opening credits. Although, as the film progresses its initial draw slowly depletes as the storyline weakens into chaotic uncertainty and looses the attraction which the opening portion of the film introduces. “The brainless plot and self-consciously startling imagery — vampire dolls, orgasm machines, semi-nude "rock people," a giant water pipe with a man swimming inside — fail to bring this empty exercise in low camp to life.” (Morris, 2003)

Figure 4 Though the film runs on an empty story, the designs of the sets, props and outfits are all unique and original, and really help to portray the underlying themes which generate connections to its genre. The set design effectively mirrors the style of the comic books which it’s based on, involving the bold graphic colour schemes and the drug-induced hallucinogenic appearances (Figure 4). The set production also creates large perspectives and gives the sense of the vastness of the environments in comparison with the characters. The clothing additionally builds on similar styles, presenting females as sex icons, dressing them in revealing but futuristic outfits, which enhance the sexual, seductive nature of the characters themselves, reflecting comparisons with the idea of free love happening in the real world. “…What's not to like about set designs that look like someone's acid-induced science project, or a series of breast-enhancing Space Queen outfits…” (Guthmann, 1996) Even with its flaws, ‘Barbarella’ is truly a bold and colourful comic adaptation that is a cult classic which presents a surreal dream-like, hallucinogenic experience which helps to forgot the poor and empty void of the story.

Review Bibliography

References Vaux, R (2012) available at: www.rottentomatoes.com; www.scifimoviepage.com/dvd/barbarella-bluray.html [accessed online on 18 October 2012]. Morris, G (2003) available at: http://brightlightsfilm.com; http://brightlightsfilm.com/41/varieties.php#barbarella [accessed online on 18 October 2012]. Guthmann, E (1996) available at: www.sfgate.com; http://www.sfgate.com/movies/article/FILM-REVIEW-A-Younger-Funnier-Fonda1968-s-2966936.php [accessed online on 18 October 2012]

Images Figure 1: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/61/Barbarella-poster.jpg Figure 2: http://wrongsideoftheart.com/wp-content/gallery/stills/barbarella_106.jpg Figure 3: http://constantineintokyo.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/untitled-0.jpg Figure 4: http://constantineintokyo.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/untitled-3.jpg

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