Fascination is set in France, 1905, and has a fairy tale vibe, with misty countryside, a splendid French chateau, and a protagonist, Marc, who at the start steals a bag of gold. He hides at the chateau to escape his pursuers, where two women, Elisabeth and Eva, are waiting for the arrival of their marchioness. Marc is arrogant and threatening, but the two women, who are in love with each other, don’t seem bothered. When the marchioness arrives with her entourage for a party, it becomes clear Marc is a play thing for the evening, and might not leave the chateau alive.
It takes a while to get to the heart of Fascination. Marc is so unlikeable, there is a temptation to turn the film off, but once Elisabeth and Eva take the screen, it becomes clear he is not the hero of the film, which is a relief. The story is really Elisabeth’s. The women hold all the power. This is a film about power dynamics, feminism and class. In the opening scene, Elisabeth drinks ox blood at an abattoir to give herself strength. In another, Eva strides across the bridge to the chateau, naked under a black cloak, bearing down on her victim with a super-sized scythe. At the party, when it finally begins, Marc plays a game of blind man’s buff, and the women toy with him. He is dangerous, but he squanders his advantages.
It is a beautifully shot film. The allegorical elements about the aristocracy and the working class might be a little heavy-handed, but there is plenty of fun to be had once the scythe comes out, and the evening’s real game begins.