filmclub returns

January 16, 2008 at 5:47 pm 5 comments

We began 2008 with Jacques Tourneur‘s I Walked with a Zombie (1943). Dense and surprising, the film presents the presence of voodoo and what may be a zombie as the heuristic through which to interpret the legacy of colonial suffering inaugurated by the slaves arrival in chains at San Sebastian. That viewers can’t read the voodoo rituals or be sure of Jessica Holland’s (Christine Gordon) status as a zombie appears to make a point about historical violence unleashing forces beyond the mastery of white colonial masters.

The film posits a love triangle whose interest is quickly superseded by the voodoo/zombie happenings. The point, I take it, is that this is not a story about the travails of the white folks on the island. They don’t have the final say about the resolution of the triangle or about curing Jessica. They experience events beyond their control or understanding. And the viewer’s interest is in these events to a far greater degree than in the trials of their triangle.

This lack of control fails to come across as banal. In fact one recalls the warning in Melville’s Benito Cereno about the potential for Haitian revolution on American shores. Melville’s story is equally ambiguous, equally subject to the inadequate interpretation of the history and violence of slavery by the same people who now as then, perpetuate it with bloodshed, racism, and condescension.

Question: Why does this film happen in 1943?

Raccoon’s post is here.

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Entry filed under: Film, horror, Jacques Tourneur, thurs afternoon. Tags: , .

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