I have to admit when I first picked up The Hunger , I did so based solely on the attractive cover art of a blond vampiress clad in a tight r...

Hungry for Clarimonde

I have to admit when I first picked up The Hunger, I did so based solely on the attractive cover art of a blond vampiress clad in a tight red bodice, being bitten on the neck from behind by an amorous lover. I am a sucker for packaging. But popping the fourth disk of the complete first season into my DVD player revealed something of a different nature.

The Hunger is a mini series from 1997 that premiered on Showtime and was the brainchild of Tom and Ridley Scott. The entire series has an Outer Limits feel with each episode exploring an entirely new story rather than continuing a previous plot. In the tradition of Tales from the Crypt or the ghost hosts of the fifties and sixties, Terrence Stamp introduces each of the episodes along with the moral they are supposed to teach.

Despite the connection the cover art makes to vampires, there are only one or two episodes explicitly related to the undead. Among them is Nunc Dimittis, in which an ancient female vampire and her aging assistant recruit an unwitting street kid to become her new caretaker. But a far more compelling vampire tale is Clarimonde, an interpretation of the story of the same name from 1908 by Théophile Gautier. Published nearly a century after Polidori’s The Vampyr , Gautier's Clarimonde would endure to become one of the earliest pieces of vampire fiction.

In the story, a devoted priest named Romuald is prepared to renounce the material world and all its pleasures for service to God. But as he takes his vows, he glimpses the beautiful and worldly Clarimonde, a famous courtesan whose flaxen hair and beauteous form makes him think twice about commending his soul to the priesthood.

Regardless, Romuald takes his post as the priest of a small curacy and lives for a year in peace and heavenly contemplation. But Romuald’s revere is broken when he is called to give the last rights to a woman he later discovers to be his beloved Clarimonde.

But Clarimonde is not quite dead, and an impassioned kiss from Romuald awakens her. Fueled by the power of their love, she becomes one of the undead and makes Romuald her lover. But their love is not enough to sustain her in death, and she takes to drinking his blood while he sleeps to stay alive.

Remarkably, the episode stays mostly true to the original tale, with the exception of several small details. There is no mention of Clarimonde being a courtesan, she has short black hair instead of flowing gold locks, and the scenes of nighttime blood-letting have been cut out.

The episode also changes the way Clarimonde dies. In the story Romuald’s mentor, the Abbé Sérapion comes to his aid and reveals Clarimonde for what she truly is. The Abbé sprinkles holy water on her corpse, reducing her body to dust and bone while in the mini-series, Romuald need only renounce his desire for Clarimonde for her to die.

The Hunger episode is good for what it is, a snapshot of a much larger narrative. As fan of Gautier’s original story, it was refreshing see a quality visual representation of his work on the small screen.

Further Reading:
Clarimonde by Théophile Gautier on Project Gutenberg

2 comments:

  1. Ok so I was considering purchasing this on Amazon... Do you recommend? I have got my silken gloved hands on the original film starring David Bowie *sigh*. So will post a review soon!

    www.musingcontinuum.com

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  2. A lot of the episodes are hit and miss so if you can rent it I would suggest that instead. The final disc also has some extra features hosted by David Bowie. Oo-la-la

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