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  • Daniel Rae

Barbarella Review


"Barbarella", Marianna Productions, 1968


Almost completely tarnished by time, the entertainment-factor in this film comes in the form of appreciation in how it has shaped the sci-fi genre and the sometimes-disturbing lens it presents sexuality through.

The story is set against the backdrop of adherent campiness. The harsh mise en scene that attempts to throw together a 60s decor and space imagery, whilst occasionally sticking the landing with the "labyrinth", tries to capture audiences with charm rather than attention to detail in immersing audiences in a cobbled-together universe. Whilst modern audiences can appreciate the art design special to every location that the story takes Fonda's Barbarella, the jolty, unkempt nature of the cinematography and camera movement disables that room for suspension of belief. This unrealised approach to identification and how audiences are actually positioned in this universe can also be seen with the direction of the diegesis and the coding of its messaging. Again, whilst audiences are given the room to appreciate the exploration of the dark underbelly of the world that Barbarella's ship crash-lands on, the treatment of the screenplay fails to capture that other-worldly sense of evil that would otherwise hold audiences' interest beyond its laughable tangents the story takes.

Despite this, I am in awe of the uniquely disturbing feel that hides underneath this janky aesthetic the treatment emits, intentional or not. Accompanied by the imagery of the creatures literally feeding off the sexually vulnerable presented through quick cuts and unorthodox camera angles, I can't help but feel powerless throughout Barbarella's journey, and I think its this unnerving element of the art direction that has likely inspired the idiosyncratic styles of Tim Burton and Ridley Scott.

Overall, this film is for the most part completely nonsensical with how it handles film form, abiding to some rules of fundamental storytelling and ignoring others, resulting in a dizzying experience.


2/5 Stars

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