Born: Nov 3, 1938, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris
France’s sole horror auteur, Rollin prefers the label ‘fantastique‘ to describe his erotic, rhyming, manifestly personal work. Typified by wistful lesbian vampires and a narcotic narrative drive, his films use gothic paraphernalia to ponder the paired mysteries of death and desire. They are also thoroughly Gallic, blending the melancholy romance of the poetic realists with the generic play of the nouvelle vague. Meagre budgets accentuate a surreal sensibility, with fetishtically attired players sighted amid derelict locations.
His freeform monochrome debut LE VIOL DU VAMPIRE attracted fluke attention by opening in Paris at the height of les evenements. Originally intended as a short, it boasts a second half that oneirically resurrects a cast killed at the end of the first.
- David Prothero from BFI Companion to Horror edt. Kim Newman, 1996.
“the fantastique is the opposite of the supernatural” – Jean Rollin.
What he wants is to introduce the fantastic elements into the everyday world, to push the normal until it becomes the super-normal. The key to this is the creation of an atmosphere in which anything could happen – and frequently does. His films are based around images and sequences of images, not around the logical, point-by-point exposition of a screenplay. The genesis of many of his films is a particular place that catches his attention or a specific image. Other images then follow, and often the screenplay is an exercise in linking the pictures that come almost ready formed to his mind.
“A grandfather clock is of no interest – a vampire woman getting out of this clock at midnight, that’s me!” – Jean Rollin. Which is not to say that the stories in his films are unimportant. They are essential elements in helping to create a mood, giving strength to the introduction of outre elements that move the plot on to its next stage. Without the narrative, the images would lack focus. In LE FRISSON DES VAMPIRES, for example, there is a scene where the vampire, Dominique, emerges at midnight from inside a grandfather clock. The scene has narrative and dramatic sense, and is a startling image in itself; but if the film had consisted of nothing but such moments, the emotional impact of them would be lost. It’s the poetry inherent in these scenes that Rollin wants to cultivate, not the shock value of them. His ideal is to find images that are strong enough in themselves to need no final rational explanation. To him, the need to explain takes away the power of the images. Continue reading