Morgiana (1972)

“Whatever we yell into this chasm will echo back to us, distorted and fragmented, and that will have to be our meaning”

‘Morgiana’, directed by Juraj Herz in 1972, is a Czech gothic horror movie starring Iva Janžurová in a dual role as twin sisters Klara and Viktoria. The film starts with the death of their father, and Klara inherits his estate. This sends Viktoria into a fit of jealous and murderous rage that leads to her attempt to poison Klara and ends in tragedy. It’s a dark, weirdly filmed fairy-tale, with a sumptuous if morbid design scheme and a pair of distinctive performances by a single actor. This film is over-the-top, but that is part of the unique richness of the imagery it presents and is integrally part of the story it is telling. There is something old fashioned about it – like the Hammer horror movies of the UK but with a more inventive style, the same melodrama and heightened performances, but with a holistic directorial and cinematographic feel. The use of distorting camera lenses increases the feeling of entrapment, as does the use of location – as gothic as the script and the story. Throughout the movie, the sisters’ cat is omnipresent (it is also the source of the film’s title) and this aspect connects with wider ideas of witchcraft and the occult. There is something reminiscent of the films of Polish director Wojciech Jerzy Has, such as ‘The Saragossa Manuscript’ and ‘The Hourglass Sanatorium’ in the way Herz blends the fantastical and the real, always on the cusp of slipping into a dream-world.

Would I recommend it? The central female roles, the powerful oneiric feel and the witty melodrama make for a coherent and potent film. Watch in a double-bill with ‘The Hourglass Sanatorium’.

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