by Rich Moreland, April 2017
In this post we find out about the gypsy’s significance in Le Marquis de la Croix.
Pachamama productions are always more than they seem at first glance and Le Marquis is no exception.
All photos are courtesy of the company.
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Le Marquis de la Croix is the dance of the gypsy, suspended and exposed to the nightmarish whims of her aristocratic master. Her time with him is short. Her trials encompass less than a twenty-four hour period.
The scene rivals similar punishments from Dead But Dreaming when Amy Hesketh is the Irish traveler humiliated at the whipping post and Justine where Amy is spread-eagle between pillars for a public lashing.
In this reviewer’s opinion those scenes is are the finest Pachamama Films has produced, but Zynga’s scourging–back and front with her dress torn away in the same manner as the Irish traveler and Justine–ranks among the best.
To clarify the above statement, Pachamama Films presents female whippings under varying circumstances and settings.
In the case of Le Marquis, flogging is torture for its own sake as we see in the dungeons of Justine rather than an interrogation technique in Maleficarum (below) or enforcing discipline shown in Ollala .
Curiously after the marquis is finished and the gypsy is properly marked, a chanting and singing crowd is heard outside his cell. The aristocrat comments that Zynga, whom he calls a “wretched creature,” may not have committed any crime. Nevertheless, he treats her abysmally in a highly sexualized ritual spurred by his sadism.
“Zynga excited me violently,” he says as he abandons her manacled to the pillar. Her suffering makes him “rigid,” he admits, before calming his “ardor and desires” with an act of self-pleasure.
Wielding his whip on the fair body of the gypsy causes the marquis to wax poetic. “What beauty. These are roses strewn upon the lilies by the Grace’s very hands.”
What’s going on here? Is this a divine moment?
Early on when Zynga is first sold to the aristocrat, he tempts her with an apple in a reversal of the Genesis story when Eve seduces Adam. But that’s not quite as simple as it sounds because Zynga is, in fact, the marquis’ temptation and a reminder of the emotional pain he endures.
In other words, both have a hunger for freedom and the aristocrat in the end will facilitate hers.
When she is kneeling in front of him in total subservience, the marquis demands to know what she will do for the fruit. The gypsy offers to sing, the ancient’s oft-used reference to oral sex. Don’t forget the Romans noted that the intoxicating Cleopatra (not known for her beauty, by the way) had an enchanting voice, a reference to certain performing skills respectable Roman women found onerous.
Addressing Zynga as “a Spaniard,” the nobleman demands she “come get it.” Her shackled hands and feet require her to edge toward him using only her knees.
Stoicism and Silence
That Zynga is a gypsy is not incidental. Known as the Romani, nomadic gypsies were often expelled from the regions of Europe they entered during medieval times.
In 18th century Spain and Southern France, the historical period of Le Marquis, they were frequently arrested and imprisoned. Though stereotypically known for their passion, temper, and disrespect for the law, some gypsies eventually became Christians.
Thus, this man of the upper classes has tacit permission to torture Zynga who was sentenced to the guillotine anyway.
Important, however, is her stoicism. As we progress through the story, she may scream from physical pain, but she never weeps while enduring it. Zynga reflects her people, unwanted and familiar with the lowest of societal conditions that requires them to live by their wits.
There’s one more significant point. Founded in Greece during the Age of Alexander, the stoic philosophy precedes Christianity and contributes to it. If Zynga is a Christian, the marquis’ love/hate relationship with her is understandable because he has a personal disgust for the Church.
In fact, the aristocrat acknowledges Zynga’s stoicism. When she is crucified he observes, “Only she knows the intensity of her pain, but she does not speak of her agonies.”
Oh yes, it is curious that gypsies in Celtic England were known as, you guessed it, Irish Travelers. Their pre-Christian existence doves tails with the vampire legends that pervade Pachamama’s Dead But Dreaming, keeping the nomadic gypsy alive pre- and post-Christianity and allowing the doomed Romani in Le Marquis to represent a foil to the faith.
Back to the Roses
Allowing his eyes to feast on Zynga’s naked and welted image, the marquis says, “I dwell upon the picture. I’m fired by it. I approach her lips but dare to kiss them, but I do not.”
In fact he can’t because of what she represents: the wrong done to him by his imprisonment. The gypsy and the nobleman are reflections of each other, share a similar fate, and are separated only by that which gives the him the singular right to torture: social class.
It’s a power play that is as old as history itself.
He asks, “Do you like this? Do you want to do it again? Are you going to do better?”
Is he talking about her submission and the pain he inflicts or her eagerness to sexually accommodate him . . . or both? We don’t know but the gypsy has an answer.
She nods slightly in hopes of upping her chances of survival. The whipping commences again.
Christians regard lilies as purity, the symbol of the Virgin Mary. Red roses, often attached to romantic love, also represent the blood of those martyred by their faith. As he ratchets up her pain, the nobleman sips the red wine associated with Christian passion while denying it to Zynga in a mockery of her plight.
When he relents and puts the glass to her lips, is she drinking the blood that drains from her slowly as the narrative weaves its way to its conclusion?
Weaving his sadistic desires into his scorn for the Church and his social class attitude toward gypsies, the marquis shapes the film into a chilling drama haunted by a woeful, plaintiff musical score whenever the torture is reignited.
The Dangling Rope
The gypsy remains a prisoner manacled to the pillar overnight, just as the Irish traveler in Dead lingers in her predicament. The images of slow suffering arouse an exciting admiration of the whip.
Zynga is only beginning her tribulations, of course, and a central image reappears often: the rope that lords over the Marquis’ cell.
He writes that the accused criminal finds herself in his “cavern” and “from a traverse beam dangled a rope in the center of this room of torture and which as very soon you will see, was there for no other purpose than to facilitate my dreadful and costly expeditions.”
It will accommodate the gypsy’s torments. She is caned while in strappado and later in classic BDSM style is punished again with body exposed and arms over head.
Almost in celebration, her presence makes him “wild with lust,” the marquis remarks casually, and another whipping begins.
In the next post, we’ll get some input from the filmmakers and take a look at the rack scene.