Lunedì 3 dicembre 2012

Trento-Cineforum/ Teatro S. Marco


La chrysalide et le papillon d'or

Georges Méliès, France, 1903 , 2’

Musica originale Kasander Nilist


A Brahmin walks into an exotic jungle clearing and looks around. He produces a large basket and opens it, revealing it to be empty. He hangs it from two wires attached to trees, and begins to play the flute. A gigantic caterpillar enters the clearing and raises its head up to the Brahmin’s, who kisses it. He removes the lid of the basket, picks up the caterpillar, and stuffs it inside. A beautiful woman sporting butterfly wings emerges, and flutters above the basket, which the Brahmin removes. He begins to flatter the butterfly-woman, who descends to the ground. She begins a lively dance, defying all the Brahmin’s attempts at capturing her. Finally, he drapes a sheet over her. Two maidservants enter the clearing and remove the sheet to reveal a princess. The Brahmin falls to his knees. She pushes him with her foot, and he turns into a caterpillar.

Following (Le Rêve du Radjah ou la forêt enchantée, 1900), The Brahmin and the Butterfly returns to a calculatedly exotic ‘Indian’ setting, in this case a jungle clearing surrounded by exotic ferns and fronds. Although the film lacks the dream-narrative bookend of its predecessor, and the Brahmin nominally appears to be in control of the proceedings, it quickly becomes clear that he is just as much a prisoner of his fears and anxieties as was the Rajah before him, with near-identical reactions both to large butterflies and women.

The film’s first half consists of a witty variation on traditional Indian snake-charming, the twist being that the “snake” is here a gigantic caterpillar (one of a long line of outsize insects in Méliès films, starting with A terrible night /Une Nuit terrible, 1896) who enters the basket as opposed to the other way round. Up to this point, the Brahmin is very much in charge of events, but when the butterfly - or rather a beautiful woman sporting butterfly wings - emerges, he’s powerless to influence what follows.