Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Iron Rose – Jean Rollin’s Most Poetic Title

By Steve D. Stones

French director Jean Rollin created fascinating and bizarre films which combined surrealism and erotic imagery. In recent years, his work has found a new generation of fans from DVD releases of his films by Redemption Entertainment.  The Iron Rose is Rollin’s fifth feature, and is often cited as a fan favorite. This blogger certainly points to The Iron Rose as his favorite Rollin film. However, the film was the least commercially successful of his career, and Rollin anticipated it would not do well even before it was released.

He gave the film a more personal touch to avoid compromises he made in previous films.
The Iron Rose concerns a young couple who meet at a party. The film begins with the girl finding an iron rose washed up in the sand by the ocean. The couple goes for a bike ride after the party and discovers an old gated gothic cemetery. The two explore the cemetery as the sun quickly sets. They discover an underground crypt and climb into it for some quick sex.

The cemetery appears to be deserted, but a strange clown appears to put flowers on a grave. The couple panics as they have a hard time finding a way out in the dark.  The two wander aimlessly through the cemetery, never finding an escape.

After a violent fight in the cemetery, both fall into a pit covered in dust and bones. Eventually they climb out of the pit after making out again. The young girl finds the iron rose and suggests it will help them find the way out. The boy climbs back into the crypt and the girl seals the top, trapping him inside. As dawn approaches, the girl dances throughout the cemetery like a ballerina. She joins her boyfriend in the crypt as dawn has fully approached.

Like many of Rollin’s films, The Iron Rose employs a scene of a nude girl walking on the shore of the beach with upright wood poles and an iron cross sticking in the sand. This scene gives the film a surreal and erotic poetry that is a Rollin trademark. In his 1975 film Lips of Blood, a similar scene finds a nude couple walking along the beach that crawls into a coffin which washes out to shore.

Another appeal of The Iron Rose is its theme of old world decay. At the opening, the film shows a number of old decaying buildings, and then contrasts the decay against a landscape of industry by showing trains and rail yards. The old cemetery also adds to the decay theme. In a number of scenes, the young couple, who represent the living, push, kick and topple over a number of tombstones while wandering through the cemetery. This adds to the contrast of life and death, a theme which threads through the entire film.

Redemption Entertainment has released most of Rollin's works, including The Nude Vampire, Lips of Blood, The Shiver of the Vampires, Fascination, and of course The Iron Rose. Happy viewing!

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