Monday, 27 July 2020

Daughters of Darkness (Devil's Advocates)

Harry Kümel
Harry Kümel. Image: Hawawiki1 [CC BY-SA]
Last summer I posted a little something about the book I'd written on Ken Russell's The Devils, which was published as part of Auteur's Devil's Advocates series.  Bearing in mind that I am probably not the most impartial judge, I can honestly say I've never encountered a bad entry in this series, and each and every title I've read has left me with a newfound appreciation of the given film.  My experience of Devil's Advocates pre-dates my direct involvement with it, and I'm very pleased to have contributed to a series I've been a fan of both before and since my book formed a small part of it.  Naturally, there's an extra frisson when a DA appears on a film I'm especially fond of—Laura Mee's excellent book on The Shining and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas' fine volume on Suspiria being two such cases in point—so I was most pleased to learn that the series was going to include a book on Belgian filmmaker Harry Kümel's Daughters of Darkness (Dutch: Dorst Naar Bloed), a film I wrote about way back in 2012 for the print version of Holland Focus.  If you so wish, you can venture into the HF archives to view a washed-out scan of that short piece.

The Devil's Advocate on Daughters of Darkness is the work of Kat Ellinger, who for some time has been one of the most consistently interesting film historians out there.  As well as her numerous contributions to a variety of both print and digital publications, Kat is the editor-in-chief over at Diabolique Magazine, and she has also recorded a number of audio commentaries for DVD/Blu-ray releases; her commentary (with Samm Deighan, author of the DA on Fritz Lang's M) on Eureka Video's disc of Joe Begos' Bliss is, to my mind, the best new commentary track I've heard this year.  As an admirer of both Kat's writing and Daughters of Darkness, it seemed certain that I was always going to find this particular DA to be a great read, and I'm pleased to confirm that the book more than met my (admittedly high) expectations.  The book is split into four main chapters, and it moves along at a nice clip; chances are you, like me, will devour it in one sitting.

The book contains a huge plus in that Ellinger has sought out the views of both director Kümel and the film's co-star, the Québécoise Danielle Ouimet, which really adds a most satisfying layer onto what is always an engaging, insightful read.  As a longtime fan of the incomparable Delphine Seyrig—I'm currently neck-deep in my own project concerning another of the actress' films—I especially appreciated reading their thoughts on working with this great star.  The book is highly recommended, and it might be best to pick it up sooner rather than later, given that in exactly three months' time a limited 4K UHD disc of a new restoration of Daughters of Darkness will be released; among its many bonus features, this edition will include commentary tracks from both Kümel and Ellinger.  Needless to say, I'll be in the queue for that one, but until it appears you can put in some preparatory work thanks to yet another excellent addition to the ongoing Devil's Advocates series.  The book is available from numerous sellers, including Amazon Netherlands.

Darren Arnold