Demimonde A review
28 Sep 2016
What a sexy film! A tangled web of womanhood that touches on every aspect of the female psyche as women attempt to adjust to aging out of their prime.
Demimonde is a Hungarian film with English subtitles based in the 1910s. Mágnás Elza, played by Patricia Kovacs, is a famous courtesan that has the power to seduce any man. Elza has done very well for herself, as a result of seducing a famous and wealthy furniture tycoon who makes sure that Elza’s only problem is trying to figure out how to spend all the money he showers her with. Though his money is strong, it cannot overpower her thirst for passion, which is quenched by a young romantic poet that begs her to run away with him to America.
When Elza’s housekeeper, Kóbori Rózsi, played by Dorka Gryllus, hires an assistant to help with the household duties, Rozsi slowly realizes that she has hired her replacement. Bits and pieces of Rozsi and Elza’s true connection seep through the scenes as the viewer begins to understand that their connection is way more convoluted than we are privy to in the beginning of the film. Elza takes a liking to this young new housekeeper, Szebeni Kato, played by Laura Dobrosi, who reminds her of her younger days, before aging skin and other telltale signs of getting older. In an attempt to make Kato her protégé, Elza enrages Rozsi while exposing Kato to a lifestyle that we are not certain Kato objects to… or not.
I found the relationship between Elza and Rozsi to be the most multifarious and intriguing. Elza is the lady of the house and she treats Rozsi in a manner that is cringe-worthy. It is not a status thing, because Elza treats the new housekeeper more like a daughter. The first indication we have that the relationship was more than we were initially lead to believe is when Rozsi brings a glass of liquor to Elza’s room at night. Elza swallows a mouthful and then Rozsi guzzles the leftovers. The bitter expression on Rozsi’s face as she drinks Elza’s leftovers is metaphorical for the way she feels about living in Elza’s shadows, eating Elza’s food, sleeping in Elza’s house, cooking Elza’s food, washing Elza’s floors and serving Elza’s guests. This is in sharp contrast to the story she tells Kato about the way she and Elza were in the past. Elza and Rozsi were best friends in their younger years and it was Rozsi who provided for and reigned over Elza in their youth. The last thing that Rozsi has to hold on to is her closeness with Elza, no matter how detrimental it is to her.
Rozsi sees Elza’s fascination with the young and beautiful Kato as a threat to their bond. Kato, though dazzled by the finer things in Elza’s possession does not surrender her morals and objections to Elza’s courtesan lifestyle. This makes her more attractive in Elza’s eyes. Elza finds pleasure in living vicariously through Kato’s youth and untarnished beauty. Elza loves that Kato is the object of desire to rich and powerful men and wants to groom her in the art of seduction.
Kato: I don’t want to spread my legs.
Elza: You’ll have to. That’s the ticket to a better life. Believe me. The hard part is what comes after. The man you spread your legs for, the man who will give you a better life, you have to know how to keep him.
And Elza is the master at knowing how to keep everyone in her circle wrapped around her finger. From her famous tycoon who she wants to finance her silent film for $100,000, to the young lover who will surrender everything for her, Rozsi who will not leave her side despite the daily rejection and degradation, Elza is the center of their universe. The stories mount and intertwine and Kato becomes entangled in this poisonous web that weaves into murder.
This film is delightfully dark and scrumptiously twisted. The unspoken insecurities of each character is what makes this film compelling. The cinematography is brilliant and immersive as is the direction. This film is a definite must see for everyone who loves a multifaceted tale of seduction and unchecked passion.