[Film Review] Morgiana (1972)

Morgiana poster

Title: Morgiana
Year: 1972
Country: Czechoslovakia
Language: Czech
Genre: Drama, Horror
Director: Juraj Herz
Juraj Herz
Vladimír Bor
based on the story “Jessie and Morgiana” by Alexander Grin
Music: Lubos Fiser
Cinematography: Jaroslav Kucera
Iva Janzurová
Josep Abrhám
Nina Divísková
Petr Cepek
Josef Somr
Karel Augusta
Rating: 6.8/10

Morgiana 1972

“The draught will kill me one day”, Viktoria (Janzurová) fussily complains about the opening window, her words will actually come true, through a tenuously linked poetic justice, it is a symbol of Morgiana’s revenge.

The story of this Czechoslovakian drama is rather minimal, set in an unspecified period time, Viktoria is plotting to murder her twin sister Klara (also played by Janzurová, but distinct with a light-colored hairdo and dress-code from Viktoria’s black widow outfit, yet equally ornamented by the over-saturated make-up) through slow poisoning, since the latter inherits most of their father’s property. Then, who is Morgiana? It is Viktoria’s pet black cat, and one of the tricks of this garish sibling-rivalry tale is the fish-eyed angle from Morgiana’s viewpoint, a nifty bit of sleight-of-hand, will become a key takeaway from the film, apart from its Klimt-esque opening credits and striking gothic grandeur, however, the same admiration cannot be referred to the lurid hallucination shots.

Morgiana is a loyal witness of its mistress’ evil plan, but unwittingly its own life happen to be the victim of its collateral damage. The said window is Morgiana’s entrance into the room, and due to the maid’s casual gesture, it is opened at that particular moment, through the ripple effect, the draught and the bang of the door, it counteracts Viktoria’s carefully calculated pseudo-suicidal bluff. Apart from this well-conceived comeuppance, the plot is amateur at its core, namely, the jejune involvement of a blackmailer is a major distraction from the central suspense, whether Klara will die or not.

It is not just wealth prompts Viktoria’s motivation, the suppressed sexual desire is the culprit here, Klara is a sweetheart, a perfect specimen of a desirable maiden, inadvertently wins over everyone’s heart including those Viktoria feels attracted to. Director Juraj Herz expressly accentuates Viktoria’s jealousy and dyed-in-the-wool conservative reckoning towards sex and sensuality, with a terrific score fittingly hones up the menacing but otherworldly ambience.

Performances are fairly attenuated to be functional with a theatrical stiffness, save Janzurová, who benefits greatly from playing both twins, gives an exceptionally expressive split image divided by polarised personalities, also credits must be given to her cosmetic and costume props.

After all, Herz manifestly leaves his eccentric directorial marks in this film (particularly impressive is the shots where both twins appear in the same frame), MORGIANA is an inviting piece of curio bodes well for further digging into his body of work.

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