The Mastery of Marianne
As I write this, I am jetting off to La Belle France avec ma famille for a cheesy beach holiday where I plan to consume my body weight in croissants and roadside crepes. And, well, in keeping with that mood, let’s talk a little about a show that fits the theme, shall we?
Marianne is a French horror show that came out last month – leaving just enough time for everyone to get into it before Halloween so we could all get our cross-channel spook on by the end of October – following Emma Larsimmon, a popular horror writer who is drawn back to her hometown to battle with the titular Marianne, a monster who has both filled her stories and ruined her life.
Let’s be clear here: Marianne just as all the boxes ticked for horror that make me happy. A writer? Yes? Childhood trauma? Yes. Creepy little hometowns? Yes. A crush on leading woman Victore Du Bois that has ruined me for all other women? Yes.
It’s dedicated to created genuinely disturbing images and sequences, and is shot through with a wry sense of humour that lends it a Buffy-esque quality and keeps it all from getting too serious, even as people are pulling their own eyes out and sacrificing their kids. The setting, of the windswept seaside town of Elden, has a dark fairytale bent, something that feels deep and elemental and as though it could apply to almost anywhere in the world. The central premise – of someone returning to their home to face old demons – has a real Stephen King feel to it (though, given his permanent residence in the horror genre, I suppose pretty much anything does), and the gathering of an old group of friends, and all the history that comes with them, is reminiscent of the best of the IT-mould of storytelling.
And in fact, that’s probably the thing I love most about Marianne: it’s a story about stories. Emma has tried to capture her trauma and the monster of Marianne in her books, and it’s through those stories that Marianne gains power. A lot of the series revolves around the stories that have been passed down – whether through generations or just a small group of friends – and the way that they can contain whole people, for better or for worse, within them. And all stories are created equal here; whether it’s Emma’s popular horror novels, local folklore, or religious doctrine, all of them matter.
That’s the biggest box Marianne ticks for me, actually. As someone who writes stories of their own (mandatory plug for my book here), and someone who spends an inordinate amount of time entrenched in stories (mandatory plug for my movie site here), there’s just something about the joy that Marianne takes in storytelling – both in its own right and in the meta-texts it explores across the course of the series – that I relate to on a deep level.
In a pop cultural landscape where we’re increasingly interrogating the exact nature of stories and what we get out of them, as audiences become better acquainted with meta-narratives and the language of screen stories, Marianne is perfectly-poised to deep-dive into that idea. And wrap it all up in a bunch of creepy continental scares for good measure.
If you want to read more of my writing on horror, check out my recaps of this season of American Horror Story, and please consider supporting me on Patreon for access to exclusive posts and a chance to choose what I write about!
(header image via Digital Spy)