Browse: Home » GRACE (2009) by Paul Solet
If it’s not Planet Neukoln how could it be otherwise than a neck-biting, genre-bending movie.
Grace brings up blissful, religious imagery to mind, a candid and merciful inhabiting of this world. Well while still keeping up with this traditional credo(mostly US protestant background of the word), Grace delivers one of the most disturbing vampire movies of late. The movie happens exactly at the center of all the debates around motherhood, midwifery, about pro-life and pro-choice, about alternative birthing activism (giving birth at home is one of the most usual alternative birthing set-ups). You could call it motherly love beyond the call of duty.
Motherly love is going beyond the grave and the bond between mother and child becomes uncanny the moment the baby is rising up from the dead. Yes we had Afro-American Vampires(Blade), we had student-tutor vampire relationships (Addiction), we had vampire bankers&brokers (Daybreakers) but nothing like a small and very demanding baby child called Grace.
There is a lot of sexual charge in the whole movie, motherhood being sexually, anatomically and socially explored. Motherhood is more closely equated with a sort of very powerful lustmord addiction (death drive?), that keeps the bodies piling up.. and I really don’t want to go into the Lacanian or post-Lacanian co-emergence of mother/embryo debates.
The pro-life conservative protestant hardcore groups (*not marginal by any means and an increasingly powerful lobby) have managed to militarize the motherly body. The womb, detached from its possessor (the woman) is being transformed discursively and visually into some sort of cage, a prison of the new born, even some say into a sort of concentration camp, that needs the immediate intervention of technological surgical and medical extraction (mostly man-handled) methods, so the baby gets “liberated”. One could say that this new split permits the same kind of military humanism that proclaims it is saving the natives and locals from a greater evil (the anti-democratic, the fanatical forces). As long as the baby is inside the mother, all the forces from the outside vie for the control of new life that has till then escaped their reach.
The vampiric relationship complicates all this and hinges on an apparently sociobiological(or evolutionary psychology) Darwinian (*kin selection?) plot where the child and mother are caught up in a survival race that sometimes draws them together and at other times pulls them apart. It is debatable that the movie Grace will actually point to some anti-survival skills, the skills that get honed even when death is already here, when the the still born is just ghost or a parasitic being. The vampire as parasite has a long genealogy, and even maybe the baby as parasite. There where always folklore about babies that where switched, babies left in the field during the harvest season that got switched with elvish beings or other unhuman denizens of the next world infiltrating ours.
The movie enables some welcome border crossings be it gender-bending, transgender, transexual/sexual, human/nonhuman. As we know, these borders are heavily patrolled, trying to keep the human subject immune, safe, impenetrable and self-contained. There is a lot of overflowing juice, but not the splatter way. It is more slowly and maybe painfully making sure that milk and blood are not so far apart. The baby bottle filled with the conspicuously red liquid graces not only the poster but several key moments in the movie.
There is also a big deal to be said about the midwife-mother relationship that has a sexual nature and that also marks both of them as an unnatural couple (at least for the usual conservative anti-queer right wing). What is actually more relevant is that the queer couple makes it trough and also gets over some very nasty encounters with pediatricians and other hetero mother figures that also fight for the baby.
The dead-alive baby is not at all an utterly demonic figure, and the movie itself has a certain candor as well as Dogma 95 qualities. It doesn’t have this cliché darkness about it, with deep shadows and murky backgrounds and that gives it plus i would say. Both male and female bodies are surprisingly rich reservoirs of these precious liquids and certain kind of machines and methods are needed to squeeze and tease out the life-giving substances. Also the cannibalistic feeding cycles are there to be seen, as feasting on your enemy (be it the pediatrician, the gynecologist or the mother in law) is the only way to assimilate him/her.
In many vampire narratives blood cannot be substituted, there is fake plasma blood (Morbius), but most of the times, fresh blood is always needed. The same can be said with the whole discussion our breast-feeding since the days Carolus Linnaeus aka Carl Line (yes the 18th c founder of the binomial nomenclature in Biology) campaigned for back-to-nature breast feeding for wealthy ladies (Londa Schiebinger traces the corporeal history of breastfeeding and mammality).
Our group of animals got classified in the end, after several older attempts, based on the capacity to lactate and its lactating glands. So breasts, even bloody breasts, kept on feeding the modern imagination.