Cat People is a film made in 1942 directed by Jacques Tourneur. The film is about a young woman named Irena who emigrates from her country Serbia to live in America for work. In the early stages of the film she meets an American man named Oliver Reed and falls in love with him. She later decides she cannot love him because she has an ancient curse, all is not as it seems…
"Cat people" belongs to the fantasy and horror genre, but it does not really follow its rules. We're close to psychological drama.(Almost) deprived of "special effects" -which is a blessing-Tourneur works with his camera the way a painter does with shadow and light to create strange dreamy atmospheres” ;- Author - dbdumonteil
I agree with what is said here. I didn’t see how this film could be put into a horror category because it didn’t play the way a horror film would usually play. I’m not implying that they should all follow the same rules but this wasn’t at all scary and it didn’t seem like it was meant to be. I think psychological drama is a better representative of this film, simply because the film was based around the mysteries of a woman transforming into a panther, and the reasons why.
The camera work in the film to create the effects of suspense were good as well, you could say the camera was like the special effects of the film. Take the swimming pool scene for example, the effects of the water reflecting on the walls creates a feeling of terror without using the tricks of the trade. This was a great way of displaying different emotions just using a camera, along with the roaring sound effects played.
Another thing used to create a scary atmosphere was the lighting effects. Because this film was made on a very low budget Tourneur had to improvise and think of other ways to convey certain things to the audience. One thing he did was use stencils which he put over a light to shine patterns onto a surface, with the right light he made things like gates, grates and windows appear on a wall and look like the real thing. This was a very clever idea, I’m sure there were other things made using this method but they were probably that well done that I didn’t pick up on them.
“Lewton and Tourneur give us evidence of a cat--or something catlike in motion--lurking just around corners. But they show us nothing concrete”
“I have never liked Cat People (1942). The film is an attack on people who are "different". The film treats anyone who is different as psychologically disturbed, vicious, and a threat to others. It states that people who are different need psychological treatment by psychiatrists. Only people who are utterly normal or conventional have value, and anything to contribute to society, according to this movie.”
I find this an interesting opinion of the viewer’s thoughts of the films intentions. I personally did not like the film either but I didn’t really think about it in this way. When reading this and thinking back to the film, in some ways I feel this person is right, but at the same time I think he has missed out some key points.
Irena feels she suffers from an ancient curse which will turn her into a panther if she is kissed or becomes sexually aroused. She tries explaining the situation to her husband but he does not believe her, nor does the people he tells. Now, if somebody is considered “mad” or deranged then they will be consulted to a psychiatric ward, no matter what race they are or where they are from. However, she was telling the truth at the end of the day and because we all knew she was (being the audience) this point could then be put into consideration. This is a difficult topic to dispute because it can go way beyond the films boundaries. My conclusion on this is that I DO NOT think that they made the character role of Irena foreign just to make her look different in the way described. The film's use of Irena's background is more than just an explanation for her genetic traits, they used it as a way of creating the central idea that she lives in fear of her own background of sexuality. Also, the reason for her being the Serbian woman who is seen as “different” is a metaphor for loss of virginity and the result of stemming from this is old folklore.
I believe that if the Serbian woman Irena Dubrovna and the America co-worker Alice Moore where switched round they would still be able to have the same film, obviously just altering the reasoning behind he character.
As I said, I did not enjoy this film. I didn’t like it because I failed to see the point behind it all and the overly long build up of tension eventually became tedious and irritated me. The film was a suggestive horror, meaning you wouldn’t actually see anything horrific, you would only know that something bad was there in spirit you could say. I understand that making this film now would not be successful partly because of this. Times have changed and people are not as imaginative in this way and would not appreciate these kinds of films as much. Creativity has been taken to different levels and has gone in different directions because of the evolution in technology and resources etc. I feel I am too used to newer films, being born in this day and age. I do appreciate the film with its clever effects and all, but altogether the film is just not for me.