by Rich Moreland, April 2017
In analyzing Le Marquis de la Croix’s message on religion and de Sade, once again I relied on the commentary section of the DVD to get Amy Hesketh’s and Jac Avila’s views on their film.
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The Right to Torture
As mentioned, Le Marquis ends with a crucifixion that lingers on Zynga’s suffering.
Her hands and feet are nailed into place and she is suspended within the marquis’ cell. Taunting her, he asks if this fate is better than the guillotine. In other words, is the slow agony of the cross preferred to the quick death under the blade? Does religion’s absurdities dignify the afflictions of the masses or simply mask them?
“What then are religions if not to restrain therewith the tyranny of the mightier to enslave the weak,” the aristocrat declares.
He claims “the right to torture, dominate and execute” the gypsy in a god-like pronouncement then blames the Christian God for forging “the irons” that “cruelly manacled her, the whips that bring her agony and the nails that pierce her.”
Of course, he then announces that “all religions start with a false premise” because God “never existed.”
While he philosophizes, the gypsy struggles to keep whatever life in her remains. It’s a battle she fights alone because there will be no divine intervention.
Unmoved by her pain, the marquis tells us “the sacrifice is complete. The naked woman is attached to the beam of her cross, that sacred symbol of our august religion.”
His pomposity challenges the similar vainglory and hypocrisy of the Church. Spurred to mock ritual with his own versions that border on the sexual, the torturer feigns a bit of pity for his dying victim.
He dips a cloth into the wine to give her drink in a mocking reference to the Gospel’s version of the crucifixion.
Is it vinegar (spoiled wine) she tastes? Is it sweet wine that supposedly is dispensed in Paradise? Or, is the wine a perverse celebration of her agonizing death?
At this point, the film displays the irony of the marquis. He is the self-appointed instrument of the repression society and the church foist on non-conformists, the disempowered, and the fearful.
Recalling that European culture endeavored to crush the gypsy and others of the lower classes, the nobleman exclaims, “I show complete unconcern for the blood I shed or the suffering I caused upon her.”
In other words, Zynga’s torturer plays out what he despises, then sarcastically offers a strange salvation.
“If you are innocent,” he whispers to the dying girl, “this is divine.”
A little wine to go with the vinegar, perhaps?
Recognizing that “de Sade is in love with religious iconography . . . I wanted to bring that to life” before deliberately “perverting it,” Amy Hesketh says.
When I interviewed Amy, she revealed she is not personally religious preferring to characterize her film work as an expression of her Gothic point of view. On the other hand, Jac Avila was steeped in the faith growing up.
Both director/producers remind us that the Marquis de Sade is against any authority, especially the church. Amy mentions that it was the most powerful institution in Sade’s time; Jac chimes in with the “most corrupt.”
So in the end we see the crucifixion as a mockery of the gypsy’s innocence, assuming she is as she claims.
But if she is not, is it salvation? Not in the eyes of her executioner who the insists it is divine only if she is without transgression in a point Jesus might argue.
A final note. The chains on the wall behind the rack form an “M” and a “W” in an ascending order.
Could this be the marquis and his celebration of the sacred feminine in defiance of the Church? Has the imprisoned aristocrat played God and created a divine revelation in the crucifixion of the gypsy, a most unlikely candidate for Christianity iconography?
Or, do the letters imply that despite their suffering through the ages at the whims of men, women are destined to rise above them?
If that is the case, Zynga represents “everywoman” and her suffering deserves the highest praise. Perhaps that is what defines the sacred feminine–the bringer of life–and its challenge to the traditional Church steeped in its patriarchy and oppression (and repression, more precisely) of the sexual.
Could it be that the feminine is really the caretaker of whatever vision we have of eternity? If women birth humanity, why not Paradise?
Beyond culture and religion, Le Marquis is an innovative film with an intriguing conclusion concerning our basic human needs.
Here it is.
Psycho-sexual desires create sexual fantasies, especially when they involve pain and humiliation. From that standpoint, female crucifixion is erotic.
More than any other theme in Le Marquis, this is the one that encapsulates the narrative. We see it in the marquis’ sadism, no doubt, but what about the real driver of the entire story, the American tourist whose fascination with torture leads us into the museum in the first place?
While the romantic couple expresses a mild and playful interest in the museum guide’s narrative, the tourist is intensely focused on it. She envisions the scenes, projecting the couple into the marquis and Zynga.
This is evident when tourist “sees” her own version of the torment Zynga suffers. Does she envision herself in the girl’s place?
When the tour is over, the guide says no one knows if the tale he’s related actually happened and offers everyone tea. The girl waves it off and the couple leaves.
Now alone, the tourist wanders around the museum examining the horrible instruments. She is, in fact, caressing the tools of pain with a reverence found in the faithful.
Gingerly walking around the rack, she bumps into the dangling rope and steadies it with her hand.
“How did you like the visit,” the guide asks, returning with the tea and giving her a cup.
She wants to know if the instruments are real. They are, of course, he says.
Finishing her tea, the tourist becomes woozy. The guide smiles knowingly, opening another door, so to speak, to a very private fascination.
We are treated to one more vision of torture that begs for a sequel to this engaging film.
Obviously, the marquis is not finished and the tourist must take her turn . . . at least in that very active masochistic imagination of hers . . .
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The final installment in this series centers on Mila Joya, how she got involved with Amy and Jac and where she is headed now.