‘Hypnotic Eyes’ Recap
Rene and Robert Danjou, who plays the Grand Vampire, have a meeting in episode 5 of Irma Vep. The backdrop of the present timeline is the ‘Abduction scene’, one of the most controversial and cherished scenes from the original.
The clip of the scene from the 1916 film is the most-watched among other clips of the show on YouTube. Robert reveals some off-set work he did with Mira for their characters. Strike one, in Rene’s book. In fact, with his delicate state of mind, it is strike three itself. There is no way he can let anyone – let alone Danjou – dictate his work. Rene spends careful minutes with Mira about the scene.
He cherishes how seductive and tempting the original scene was. If they can recreate it in that tenor, it would be a huge success for the show. Rene sets Mira against the idea that Irma and Robert are “a couple”. Gottfried and Mira clash as the shoot begins for the scene.
Ultimately, after almost fifteen takes, the two are directed to keep things simple and get it over with. An anti-climactic end to the great tension. Mira lets out to Regina that she slept with Eamonn. She confesses she still has feelings for him but cannot act on them.
The scene, as expected, stirs up a controversy on the set. As more of the cast and crew watch it, they have polarizing reactions. Danjou, with some others, approaches Rene and asks for him to reshoot it. They feel that the scene is glorifying Moreno violating Irma. Danjou accuses Rene of hiding behind Feuillade to justify the scene.
The era in which the original was shot and the present is completely different. Victims of sexual abuse are encouraged to come out and share their stories today, as opposed to in the 1900s. Rene tries to wade off this criticism from the “woke” consciousness but comes up short.
His anecdote about Musidora (who played Irma in the original) going to the police chief to plead the resuming of the shooting is shot down by Danjou. Mira was right – through the scene, Feuillade was exposing the viewer’s unblemished fantasies, which is the entertainment. That is what makes the scene so ingenious.
Danjou accepts the exact same thing in the end. Carla (the first AD) is also in agreement with Rene about Danjou’s being a hypocrite and trying to sabotage him but she also reminds Rene that the hot-button topic will offend a lot of people.
Rene seeks advice from Mira about the scene. But she supports him. She sees Rene’s “sexy in a perverted way” expression to define Irma Vep’s personality. Mira also points Rene in the direction of Musidora’s memoirs and the mention of her visit to the police chief in them.
He takes the discovery to Gregory, who then takes it to Gautier, the producer. Rene is on thin ice and one mistake will see him kicked off the project. There are two scenes where Rene projects what might have happened in the station and on set, which is a fine touch. He also lets Mira know that he is going to do what Feullaide did – rewrite the scene and kill the Grand Vampire to rid himself of Danjou.
Mira, meanwhile, dons the catsuit and ventures out to a stranger’s apartment. She listens to a couple make love but escapes when the phone rings. On set the next day, Zoe reminds her of her promise of “next time”, but Mira shoots her down saying “it is not her world”.
Original and Adaptation
Moreno is after Werner’s treasure and so is the Grand Vampire. He instructs Irma Vep to steal the map to the treasure from Werner’s room, while he entertains the unsuspecting man in the salon.
Moreno is two steps ahead of them both though. He learns their plan and makes his own. He waits for Irma to steal the map and once she does, he kidnaps her.
Using chloroform, he knocks her unconscious. Then, he caresses her body, finally having tamed the invincible criminal mastermind. She is his for the “taking”. Moreno opens the trunk in his room. Surprise, surprise, it is the maid he hypnotized from the last episode in the silk catsuit! He gives her a false map to give to the Grand Vampire, taking the real one for himself.
He plans to ask him for a ransom to release Irma as he throws her off the balcony to his underlings down on the ground.
The Episode Review
In many ways, this episode of ‘Irma Vep’ felt very self-indulgent. Assays clearly wanted to evoke a reaction from the audience and focus on this particular scene that embodies a generational debate.
Sexualizing assault is a tightrope where filmmakers often err on the wrong side. The perception of what you see ultimately is the litmus test such decisions have to pass through. But through Rene’s incessant defenses and Mira’s nod, Assays decides he does not need approval. He just wants the fact of it out there for people to know.
In the end, the question still remains: where do you draw a line? Who decides what the moral hierarchy is in such circumstances? Does the proposition of offending a faction of viewers deter a filmmaker from doing what he wants?
This delicate balance between creative choices and moral vicissitude does not rest in equilibrium forever. Its disruption is the intrinsic nature of this medium and a director’s timeless challenge. Rene seems to have handled it really well here but his childish, naive nitpicking with Danjou shows how vulnerable he is to things going against him.
His controlling & paranoid attitude ruffles a lot of feathers, and someday he might live to regret those decisions. The lines further blur between Mira and Irma. It wouldn’t be too wrong to say that they’re becoming one. This is the third instance where Mira has felt the power of the suit drive her towards an unexpected adventure into the night.
We do not know, yet, where Assays is going with it. But one thing is for sure: Mira’s existential and identity crisis is a treat as a viewer. Overall, the episode was able to meet the above-average standard that the show has set. Some parts were annoying and felt like we were excluded, but overall, a decent watch.