April 4, 2009
Le Portrait de Petite Cossette can be considered a horror, but not in a sense that Ring is a horror. It is sometimes creepy but does not have the kind of terror that drives one senseless. There is another particular dimension added to the horror in Petite Cossette and “beautiful” is really the only word I can think of to describe its inexplicably seductive allure.
Beautiful horror is a term once used by the director Kim Ji-woon to describe his A Tale of Two Sisters. The film does not seek to senselessly terrify the viewers, it wants people to fall in love with the two sisters and their story. So innocent is the character of Soo-mi and affectionate is her sister Soo-yeon’s caring love for her, so much so that when we are revealed to the frightening truth behind their story, there is horror but most importantly a sense of grief. Horror not of the unknown but of the disturbing consequence of Soo-yeon’s love for Soo-mi, and grief for their once beautiful relationship that will only exist in her wishful past and imagination.
To offer a well-known literary example, I suppose it’s like falling in love with the 6-year-old vampire character of Claudia in Anne Rice’s The Interview with a Vampire. Like the main character, we are horrified by what she has become but also can not resist her Lolita allure so much so that we want to be consumed by it. Here one could make an interesting comparison to more conventionally terrifying horrors like Ring: in terrifying horrors there is desire to escape/push it all away, whereas in beautiful horrors there also is desire to embrace it. Watching Petite Cossette doesn’t scare me as much as Ring or Audition, but like the main character Eiri, it is impossible not to be allured to Cossette’s beauty. One particular scene comes to mind and that is being transfixed by the empty Venetian glass filling itself in blood, only to slowly appear as the ghost of Cossette looking down on Eiri, and there is a melancholic desire to embrace her and her horrifying curse as he willingly accepts her glass and drinks from it.