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The new Eve: Faith, femininity and the fairy tale in Catherine Breillat's Barbe bleue/Bluebeard (2009)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-80
Number of pages10
JournalStudies in European Cinema
Issue number1
PublishedMar 2013

King's Authors


If previous variants on the Bluebeard myth can be seen as what Marina Warner has termed 'a version of the Fall in which Eve is allowed to get away with it' (1995), Catherine Breillat's 2009 adaptation of Charles Perrault's fairy tales sees Barbe bleue as Eve, his young bride, 'the serpent in the garden' (Wheatley 2010: 42). Unlike previous retellings of the Bluebeard myth by female voices such as Angela Carter's 1979 'The Bloody Chamber' and Marie-Jeanne L'Héritier's 1694 'The Subtle Princess', then, Breillat's Barbe bleue does not focus on making explicit the narrative of abusive male privilege and female vindication within the fairy tale. Instead, it takes the children's story as the starting point for an examination of sexuality and selfhood in relation to the foundational myths that fairy tales provide. This article argues that for Breillat, these stories endure because they provide social values and moral lessons which resonate through time, an approach mirrored in the ambiguous incorporation of Christian iconography and myth in her film. It is a gestural attitude (to borrow from Agamben), which is likewise suggested by a number of other film-makers working in contemporary Europe, including Mia Hansen-Løve (Le père de mes enfants, 2009), and Jessica Hausner (Lourdes, 2009).

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