The chilling 1933 true story of murderous sisters Christine and Léa Papin has inspired scores of plays, operas, books, and films (the most famous being Claude Chabrol’s “La Cérémonie”). A worthy addition to that company is Jim Vendiola’s 14 minute short film “Violets”. Whereas prior works attempted to understand the psychology behind their crimes, “Violets” uses their tale as a primer to look into the daily lives of two stiflingly codependent and disturbed siblings.
The two sisters (played by Cassandra Jones & Annie Boldon) live a cloistered existence together in a spartan, blank apartment. Time is marked off on a wall calendar (opened to a picture of blooming violets) providing the countdown to the violent climax. Since the sisters’ symbiotic relationship has made conversation unnecessary, the nearly dialogue free film is well supported by the electronic score provided by Chicago duo Calibrated Crematorium.
Clearly an ultra low budget effort, Vendiola uses it where it matters. This includes smart set design and attention to wardrobe details (including the sisters’ violet gloves and their hair pulled into tight, suffocating braids). A soft haze hangs over much of the film and Vendiola has a propensity for framing his actresses in front of blown out windows, creating some striking images. The only casualty of the budget is the location sound, which isn’t given the same amount of consideration.
“Violets” is peppered with touches reminiscent of Michael Haneke’s best work. Nothing is hidden in the shadows. When we are inside the sanctuary of the sisters’ home, their sickness is laid out for the viewer to see, if not necessarily comprehend. Also, any fan of Cronenberg would find it difficult to watch and not see shades of his 1988 film “Dead Ringers” (also based on a true story) not only because they both document creepily close siblings, but also share female fertility as a central theme.
“Violets” is currently being submitted to film festivals. If you come across it in a festival program, make sure you take the time to check it out.
You can view the trailer for this film at: http://vimeo.com/kinosaur/violetsteaser