Jan 22, 2011


In 1979, Belgian filmmaker Raoul Servais created a short feature entitled Harpya. This little number came about to me in the guise of a friend and a forum thread pertaining to the creepiest videos one could find on the Internet. Raoul Servais has developed a film career of experimental shorts spanning 15 years and won the Palme d'Or at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival for Best Short Film. Surely the sparse acclaim must mean something? Well, in fact, Servais developed the first 35mm outburst of surrealism detracting the nature of feminine creatures. What Harpya discusses with its limpid parable is not a "mythological femme fatale" but a common mistress and the carnivorous aftermath of accepting such into your home. Dario Argento even managed to stretch his presence to encapsulate the same exact schematic for his Masters of Horror: Jenifer. This plot outline isn't exclusive to Harpya though; science fiction writer C.L. Moore brought to light the same dissent towards the parasitic womankind in Shambleau. The dreamy effect of Harpya is captured using front projection: the act of projecting the scenery onto the bodies of the actors in front of a highly reflective surface. Using what also seems to be stop-motion animation, Servais and Švankmajer must have dominated the animated avant-garde scene of the 60s and 70s.

The epicentre of the film isn't the dapper host but the insatiable hybrid of woman and bird. This mythological beast known as the Harpy is a breasted bird of thieving instincts. Within Harpya, the fellow saves the creature from an unknown man strangling her in a fountain. Saving her, he becomes fascinated at her majestic and strange figure, no doubt a victim of cognitive dissonance. The allure must have been held in the breasts, I assume because this was the case for me. After perching the beast on his armchair within his haven. Immediately succumbing to hunger, the man sets out to eat only to have the harpy appear at his side, striking a loud orchestral splurge and drastic lighting changes. The horrors of the household happen in a more subtle aspect to near every man punished with a helpless and immobile significant other. I sit back and listen to the horror stories of lazy liaisons and grin at my fortune. I never get cocky though as I could find myself in the same internal slavery and avoid kinship at most costs. Soon the man's plight grows into a more turbulent force: unable to eat his own food, leave his own house, and having to sneak around. The suffering is become unbearable, donning all 3 of his hats, the man opens his door to have the wrath of the harpy swoop down and devour his legs, a cunning metaphor for the handicap of relationships.

Harpya is perfect in every way. Being only 9 minutes in length, every scene was exact to a blueprint of absolute narrative. Even the warnings of post-menarche rings through the film. Harpya can also be ingested both intellectually or visually. You don't necessarily have to think of the subversive nature about Harpya, you could just enjoy the feast of lucid lust. A bona fide visual vaccine to ball-and-chain relationships and the wondrous world of abjecting women.



jervaise brooke hamster said...

The harpya looks like a bald Klaus Kinski with tits.

Unknown said...

Thanks, I´ve been looking for this one since a long time ago.