Directed By: Jean Rollin
Starring: Françoise Pascal, Hugues Quester, Natalie Perrey
Line from the Film: "They say that the stars are gods sending us signals"
Trivia: Françoise Pascal helped remove a coffin from a hole full of bones that both she and Hugues Quester find themselves stuck in at one point in the movie
A boy (Hugues Quester) and a girl (Françoise Pascal), who met each other a day earlier at a wedding reception, go on a date. Hoping for some privacy, they head to a local cemetery, where the boy finds a crypt that’s been left unlocked. Though reluctant at first, the girl eventually follows him inside, and the two make love. Unfortunately, they also lose track of the time, and when they emerge from the crypt, the sun has gone down and they’re completely alone. To make matters worse, the boy has no idea how to get back to the main entrance. As he searches for a way out, the girl, initially terrified, becomes strangely drawn to this cemetery, wondering aloud if it would be better to ignore the outside world and remain there forever among the dead.
Director Jean Rollin considered his 1973 movie The Iron Rose one of the “strangest” he ever made, and from what I can see, he was right. Shot in an actual cemetery located in Amiens, France (where noted author Jules Verne was laid to rest), The Iron Rose doesn’t really have much of a story; two people visit a graveyard, get lost, and look for an exit. Also, unlike other Rollin films, The Iron Rose isn’t particularly violent, and aside from a dream sequence set on a beach, doesn’t feature nudity or sex.
And yet, despite all this, I found the movie absolutely spellbinding. At night, the Amiens cemetery (which is huge) takes on an almost otherworldly quality, and with gothic headstones stretching as far as the eye can see, it’s a damn creepy place. In addition, the leads do a fine job conveying their character’s fear and frustration, with Françoise Pascal taking it a step further by falling under the cemetery’s spell (with a wild look in her eyes, she talks of spending eternity with the dead, a suggestion that her companion doesn’t find very appealing).
To be sure, The Iron Rose is an unusual motion picture, and while I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, I’m sure some of you will think I’m crazy for doing so. It’s definitely a slow burn kind of movie, probably a bit too slow for some, and the overly simple story will either fascinate you (as it did me) or bore you to tears. Personally, I love films that are unique, and The Iron Rose is certainly that, but if psychological horror combined with an arthouse approach isn’t your thing, then you may want to steer clear of this one.