The Severed Head
The television show based on the French classic finally hit the screens yesterday. Alicia Vikander is the leading lady, Mira, along with noted performers Adria Arjona and Vincent Macaigne.
‘Irma Vep’ is shot in two languages – English and French – due to its setting and the added American flavor. The episodes will now release every week, giving us plenty of time to talk about the bygone chapters.
This first chapter, “The Severed Head”, is also the first episode in the fictional world of the show that Vikander’s character, Mira, is starring in and Macaigne’s Rene Vidal directs.
Episode 1 of Irma Vep begins with Mira, an American actress, arriving in Paris with her assistant, Regina. She is still basking in the glory of her previous superhero movie, Doomsday, which has turned out to be a big hit. The production on The Vampires – the series she headlines, which itself is a reincarnation of the 1916 silent French classic – is slated to begin shortly.
During the prep for the press interaction, she learns that her former girlfriend Laurie is now in a relationship with Herman, who directed Doomsday. There is a sensual, teasing vibe that the creators have tried to establish between Laurie and Mira in the first episode.
It is certainly a delight watching Vikander and Arjona going head to head against each other. The power dynamics in their relationship seem to be shifting towards a more balanced outlook, as opposed to when Laurie was the one running after Mira.
The introductions in the first episode continue as we meet Rene Vidal, the acclaimed and troubled French director helming the show. His trained eye means that he demands a lot of exactness in execution from performers to make his vision of the scene a reality. It is quite tedious to watch him spring around the set and frustratingly explains his guidance on the shot.
Marfa and Phillipe complete the set. The actors playing them have just come out of a relationship with each other. They find it a bit hard to reconcile their differences and even argue over dinner about a proposed sex scene that will supposedly make the production a more “authentic” rendering of the 1916 feature.
The Episode Review
‘Irma Vep’s first episode indicates that the series will resist classifications and frequently change its tone depending on the direction it takes. The volatility stems from the peculiar production of the fictional show. The phenomenon of heavily referencing movies and the original production will be a fascinating development.
As things stand, Mira’s reluctance to commit was momentarily shattered when she donned the costume – the black suit that empowered her. Vikander seems to have a great hold over how her character is to evolve. We do not get much direction from the first episode besides the revelation that the first season will mostly be spent on artistic and personal involvement.
The story within the fictional shooting of the series does not suggest too many surprises on the positive side in terms of deviations from the original French film.
Creators will try to intertwine the two, just as was the case with the 1916 film. Rene Vidal channelizes their homage and tribute to the impact that The Vampires had on French cinema.
Through many conversations about its history, there seems to be a mix of comedy and satire. I will not be too taken aback if the show does not become a lot more “A24” by the time it finds some rhythm.
For now, all we can do is expect a good follow-up to make the first episode even better. ‘Irma Vep’ does not come across as a too commercially plotted show. It does not have the redeeming elements that can work instantly. So if it is to be successful, each episode has to impress on its own.