The femme fatale [ fam faˈtal ] ( French for "fateful woman") is a particularly attractive and seductive type of woman who - with magical - demonic features - erotically binds men to himself, but also manipulates them , undermines their morals and mostly them also falls into disaster in a " fatal " way. At the same time, she promises the seduced man the highest level of love fulfillment , which often gives her an extremely ambivalent character. Femme fragile is the conceptual counterpart.
The femme fatale in mythology, art and literature
“In myth and in literature the type of femme fatale has always existed, because myth and literature are only the poetic reflection of real life; but in real life there has never been a lack of more or less perfect examples of domineering and cruel women. "
The motif of the demonic seductress has permeated all literature since ancient Babylonian times:
- Biblical examples are Eve , Potiphar's wife, and Delilah .
- In the epic of classical antiquity appear u. a. Pandora , Helena , Circe and the Sirens .
- In the Middle Ages, the songs of the mermaid Melusine , Meliur, Armida and the motif of marriages between a mortal and a seductive, but nightmarish unearthly female being, were created.
- Tamamo no Mae, born from Japanese legend
- The Chinese Daji
- Vamps of early modern literature are:
- Semiramis, Agrippina, Sophonisbe (near Calderón )
- The Jewess of Toledo based on Rahel la Fermosa (approx. 1610 by Lope de Vega , 1872 by Franz Grillparzer , 1955 by Lion Feuchtwanger ), whereby both the title figure and her opponent, Queen Eleonor (e), are read as femme fatale can
- "Dark Lady" from Shakespeare's sonnets
- Countess Isabella (with John Marston )
- Celinde (with Andreas Gryphius )
- Examples from the 18th century:
- Marwood and the Countess Orsina (both with Lessing )
- Madame Reymer (with Diderot )
- Danae and Lais (at Wieland )
- Matilda (in Matthew Lewis ' The Monk ).
- The seductress Adelheid ( Götz von Berlichingen ) and The Bride of Corinth were invented by Goethe .
- The Comtesse Blainville (with Ludwig Tieck )
- The Bride of the Dead by Friedrich Laun
- Examples from the 19th century:
The femme fatale is also a motif of various folk tales . A well-known example of this is the poem about the Loreley written by Heinrich Heine . Further examples are von Kleist 's Miss Kunigunde ( Das Käthchen von Heilbronn ) , from Friedrich de la Motte-Fouqué the mermaid Undine , von Eichendorff the Countess Romana and Countess Diana, from ETA Hoffmann Der Elementargeist , from Émile Zola the cocotte Nana and von Oscar Wilde the dancing daughter of Herodias in Salome .
A whole series of vamps appear in Gerhart Hauptmann's dramas. One of the best-known examples was created by Frank Wedekind with the nanny Lulu , the prototype of the modern vamp ( earth spirit ; Pandora's box ). Alma Mahler-Werfel , married to Gustav Mahler , Walter Gropius and most recently Franz Werfel and at times lover of Oskar Kokoschka , was considered to be the embodiment of the fin de siecle type .
Examples from the early 20th century are the “artist” Rosa Fröhlich (in Heinrich Mann's Professor Unrat ), Alpha (in Robert Musil's Vinzenz and the girlfriend of important men ), Temple Drake (in William Faulkner's Die Freistatt ), Alraune (in Hanns Heinz Ewers ' Mandrake: The Story of a Living Being , filmed six times between 1918 and 1952) and the Mountain Queen (in ETA Hoffmann's Die Bergwerke zu Falun ).
The cultural historian Camille Paglia sees the femme fatale as the most important figure among the “demonic archetypes of the feminine who stand for the uncontrollable closeness of nature”. “The further nature is pushed back in the west, the more frequently the femme fatale appears: as a return of the repressed. She is the result of the bad conscience that the West has towards nature. "She is an" extrapolation from the biological circumstances of women ", appears" as a Medusian mother or as a frigid nymph [...]. Her cool aloofness lures, fascinates and destroys. She is not a neurotic, at most a psychopath. [...] it is characterized by an amoral callousness, a calm indifference to the sufferings of those whom it attracts and in whom it impassively observes the effects of its power. "It is" threatening because it remains calm, serene and paralyzing. Their remaining is a demonic burden, [...] it is a sting, the epitome of rebellious, corrupted sexuality. Your sting remains. "
The femme fatale in the film
Silent movie era
The type of femme fatale has appeared in films since the silent era . Actresses who have portrayed such characters repeatedly are, for example, in the USA. B. Theda Bara , Alla Nazimova and Gloria Swanson (1899-1983), and in Germany Fern Andra and Pola Negri . A characteristic German film example is Robert Wiene's expressionist film Genuine from 1920, in which the femme fatale literally drinks the blood of the men who fall for her erotically, thus explaining the etymology of the word “vamp” in a memorable way .
According to the film journalist Robert Porfirio, sexual humiliation is a common expressionist motif and at the same time typical of the romanticism of the fin de siècle . This motif appears in Expressionism "often in the form of a femme fatale who captivates a respected member of the bourgeoisie and forces him to publicly humiliate". One can see in it the “wages of sin”, but at the same time it goes well with the expressionist interest in the representation of extreme emotional states that are connected with libido and guilt. Robert Porfirio comments on the examples of respected professors who put on their femmes fatales silk stockings or varnish toenails in the films: "The ritual tone of these acts of humiliation suggests commonalities between Freudianism, Expressionism and Film Noir in their combination of sex, sadism and fetish".
Since then, the characteristics of the femme fatale have been:
- Inconsistency of appearance and essence
- over-erotic female attractiveness
- Intelligence and cold feeling
- manipulative skills
- Striving for power
- self-determined sexuality
- destructive violation of norms and laws
The boundaries between the stereotypes “femme fatale”, “ femme fragile ”, “ child woman ” and “ good bad girl ” are fluid. The above characteristics are also attributed to female figures who are at the same time or first characterized as fragile or minors. Also because characters change in the course of the story, it is often difficult to classify them precisely. Passive, vulnerable, injured or victim figures (which are more likely to be counted as “fragile” or “childlike”) and active “perpetrators”, mature, self-determined (ie more “fatal”), merge again and again. Examples of this intermingling include a. the "Lolita" figures based on Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita (novel) , as well as:
- Nicole Danet ( Nathalie Baye ) in La Balance (1982)
- Kimberly Joyce ( Evan Rachel Wood ) in High School Confidential (2005)
- Lola Lola ( Marlene Dietrich ) in The Blue Angel (1930)
- Bridget O'Shaughnessy ( Mary Astor ) in Trail of the Falcon (1941)
- Helen Grayle / Velma Valento ( Claire Trevor ) in Murder, My Sweet (1944)
- Phyllis Dietrichsen ( Barbara Stanwyck ) in Woman Without a Conscience (1944)
- Alice Reed ( Joan Bennett ) in Dangerous Encounters (1945)
- Vivian Sternwood ( Lauren Bacall ) in Dead Sleeping Tightly (1946)
- Gilda Mundson Farrell ( Rita Hayworth ) in Gilda (1946)
- Kitty Collins ( Ava Gardner ) in Avengers of the Underworld (1946)
- Cora Smith ( Lana Turner ) in The Net of Passions (1946)
- Martha Ivers ( Barbara Stanwyck ) in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)
- Elsa Bannister ( Rita Hayworth ) in The Lady of Shanghai (1947)
- Kathie Moffat ( Jane Greer ) in Golden Poison (1947)
- Maddalena Anna Paradin ( Alida Valli ) in The Paradin Case (1947)
- Norma Desmond ( Gloria Swanson ) in Twilight Boulevard (1950)
- Annie Laurie Starr ( Peggy Cummins ) in Dangerous Passion (1950)
- Diane Tremayne ( Jean Simmons ) in Angel Face (1952)
- Rose Loomis ( Marilyn Monroe ) in Niagara (1953)
- Christina Bailey and / or Gabrielle / Lili Carver ( Cloris Leachman , Gaby Rodgers ) in Rattennest (1955)
- Christine Helm Vole ( Marlene Dietrich ) in Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
- Sabra Tanner ( Susan Cabot ) in Sorority Girl (1957)
- Ilya ( Melina Mercouri ) in Sundays ... never! (1960)
- Young and Old Woman ( Jitsuko Yoshimura , Nobuko Otowa ) in Onibaba - The Murderesses (1964)
- Marianne Renoir ( Anna Karina ) in Eleven o'clock at night (1965)
- Helen Grayle / Velma Valento ( Charlotte Rampling ) in Drive to Hell, Darling (1975)
- Matty Walker ( Kathleen Turner ) in Hot Blood - Cold Blood (1981)
- Rachael ( Sean Young ) in Blade Runner (1982)
- Eliane ( Isabelle Adjani ) in A Murderous Summer (1982)
- Kaede ( Mieko Harada ) in Ran (1985)
- Alex Forrest ( Glenn Close ) in A Fateful Affair (1987)
- Catherine Tramell ( Sharon Stone ) in Basic Instinct (1992)
- Anna Barton ( Juliette Binoche ) in Doom (1992)
- Bridget Gregory aka Wendy Kroy ( Linda Fiorentino ) in The Last Seduction (1993)
- Mona Demarkov ( Lena Olin ) in Romeo Is Bleeding (1993)
- Sil ( Natasha Henstridge ) in Species (1995)
- Suzanne Stone ( Nicole Kidman ) in To Die For (1995)
- Xenia Onatopp ( Famke Janssen ) in GoldenEye (1995)
- Suzie Toller ( Neve Campbell ) in Wild Things (1998)
- Estella ( Gwyneth Paltrow ) in Great Expectations (1998)
- Kathryn Merteuil ( Sarah Michelle Gellar ) in Ice Cold Angels (1999)
- Asami Yamazaki ( Eihi Shiina ) in Audition (1999)
- Jewel Valentine ( Liv Tyler ) in One Night at McCool’s (2001)
- Rita / Camilla Rhodes ( Laura Elena Harring ) in Mulholland Drive (2001)
- Laure Ash ( Rebecca Romijn-Stamos ) in Femme Fatale (2002)
- Madison Bell ( Erika Christensen ) in Swimfan (2002)
- Helen ( Fiona Horsey ) in Penetration Fear (2003)
- Kara ( Meagan Good ) in Brick (2005)
- Mélanie Prouvost ( Déborah François ) in The Girl Who Turns the Pages (2006)
- Alice Parker ( Emmanuelle Béart ) in A Crime (2006)
- Heloise at Hannes other in meeting with Melusine. Book 2. (2007)
- Aya Koike (Sakura Ando) in Love Exposure (2009)
- Jennifer Check ( Megan Fox ) in Jennifer's Body (2009)
- Maria Elena ( Penélope Cruz ) in Vicky Christina Barcelona (2009)
- Mal Cobb ( Marion Cotillard ) in Inception (2010)
- Princess Tamina ( Gemma Arterton ) in Prince of Persia (2010)
- Jacqueline "Jacky" Pruitt ( Lily LaBeau ) in Wasteland (film) (2012)
- Simone Bader ( Katharina Heyer ) in The Woman Behind the Wall (2013)
- Emily Taylor ( Rooney Mara ) and Dr. Victoria Siebert ( Catherine Zeta-Jones ) in Side Effects (2013)
- Frau ( Scarlett Johansson ) in Under the Skin (2013)
- Malkina ( Cameron Diaz ) in The Counselor (2013)
- Ava Lord ( Eva Green ) in Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For (2014)
- Ava ( Alicia Vikander ) in Ex Machina (2015)
- Liza ( AnnaLynne McCord ) in 68 Kill (2017)
The femme fatale in the new media
The figure of the femme fatale also appears in new media , for example in video games . An example is the Max Payne game series , in which an ex-police officer named Max Payne in search of revenge and justice, driven by his love for Mona Sax, shoots his way through the New York mafia, only to end up to fail.
The band Rammstein released an album called Rosenrot in 2005 , which contains a song of the same name , which was released in the same year as the second single from the album. It depicts the brief relationship between a very young “femme fatale” - namely a girl still - and a man - according to the music video: a monk.
- Gerd Stein (Ed.): Femme fatale, vamp, blue stocking . Sexuality and domination. (= Cultural figures and social characters of the 19th and 20th centuries, 3) Fischer TB, Volume 5037. Frankfurt am Main 1985 ISBN 3-596-25037-4 (Numerous source texts; with extensive supplementary bibliography)
- Mario Praz: La Belle Dame sans Merci. In: Mario Praz: Love, Death and the Devil. The black romance (= dtv, 4375). 4th edition. Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 1994 ISBN 3-423-04375-X pp. 167-250
- Elisabeth Frenzel : The demonic seductress. In: Motives of world literature. A lexicon of longitudinal sections of the history of poetry (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 301). 5th, revised and expanded edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 3-520-30105-9 , pp. 774-788.
- La Belle Dame Sans Merci (text)
- See: Mario Praz, 1994.
- Mario Praz, 1994, p. 167.
- Camille Paglia, Sexuality and Violence or: Nature and Art (taken from Die Masken der Sexualität ), Munich, DTV, 1992, pp. 41–48.
- Robert Porfirio, motif: Sexual humiliation in Der Film Noir , eds. Alain Silver and James Ursini, Cologne, Könemann, 2000, p. 84 f.
- Lexicon of film terms, Uni Kiel http://filmlexikon.uni-kiel.de/index.php?action=lexikon&tag=det&id=2156
- René Ruppert, Der Verrat in Filmgenres - Film Noir , Ed. Norbert Grob, Stuttgart, Philipp Reclam jun., 2008, p. 304.
- Viktor Bockris, Lou Reed 2014, p. 118.