JLG in Histoire(s) du Cinema: "Killing a man is a crime. Killing a race is a question. Each government has its question. We answer: Humanity has its question too. Bigger than India, England, Russia. It is the baby in its mother's belly."
2007 is the year that pregnancy became fetishized in popular cinema. The new wave of pregnancy "comedies", Juno, Waitress and Knocked Up, engaged and proliferated spectatorial anxieties about women's bodies and their agency. All three of these films appeared easy to swallow , humorous and light - hearted, but they fetishize the image of reluctantly pregnant women. Fetishes overcompensate/distract from a psychological anxiety. So what anxieties are these reactionary films trying to reduce? Perhaps a reaction to 2006, the year of Inland Empire, where the feminine image transcended itself and left the realm of male obsession. Dern's character defied time and space within the ruptures of Inland's narrative structure. Inland depicted "A Woman in Trouble" as the only possible figure(s) with which the viewer could identify. Her character's short pregnancy came to a quick end with a screwdriver in the stomach, but the experiential nature of time (prolonged duration) in that scene was what made it a filmic exploration of female experience. 2007 sadly failed in its attempts to give the public pregnant women as figures of maturity or of strength. The largeness and strangeness of these young ladies' new bodies miraculously rids them of their agency. Unwieldy bellies, morning sickness, it's all played for comedy and it succeeds in humor that privileges the spectator as the one who is free to move around unencumbered. It seems that the male gaze has fought back...with unfunny jokes.
In slightly less popular cinema, miscarriage, and the threat of miscarriage, surfaced in Eastern Promises and L'Interieur (Inside.) Eastern Promises opens with a woman's Christmas-time death, but it begins as a very-near miscarriage. The present action of L'Interieur occurs on Christmas Eve. In L'Interieur, seemingly inexplicable violence is being carried out by a Trouble Every Day-ish Beatrice Dalle towards a (nine-months) pregnant woman. La Femme seems determined to get her hands on the woman's unborn baby. Dalle is later exposed as a woman who suffered a miscarriage due to a car accident involving the pregnant woman. But is Dalle 's "femme" so different from Naomi Watt's character in Eastern Promises? Both are haunted figures that exert extreme forms of behavior, attempting to recover from a sense of internal loss. They explore a uniquely traumatic feminine condition: simultaneity of life and death within the female body. We learn Watts has broken up with her boyfriend and recently miscarried a child. Promises opens with a mafia execution, immediately cutting to a Russian woman's near miscarriage and the subsequent saving of the baby by Watt, playing a midwife becoming obsessed with this motherless child. Cronenberg gives us two beautifully reflected images; the moral code of the mafia infiltrates Watt's own values in recovering from the loss of her child, and evocation of the mafia is uniquely feminized as a means to nurture and protect one's family.
The gangster genre, with its roots in the Western, has always had themes of community and boundaries; keeping the family together and keeping threats outside. The horror film, as L'Interieur illustrates, has roots in anxieties of the monstrousness of pregnancy and of the female figure. These genres become hybridized through what they share. Dalle's Femme is both the antagonist and the Cowboy in the White Hat: she is the outsider who must be contained as well as the defender of her own internal community-- one that was already (as she sees it, murderously) intruded by the woman whose baby she hunts. Both of these films wisely toy with genre to investigate moral and physical boundaries.
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