Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Marronnier

MARRONNIER

(2003)

As the film opens we see a man abduct a young woman and drag her into a white van. He then injects her with some sort of drug before dismembering her with piano wire. Then the credits roll. That’s right, this film is gruesome. After that, we have a surrealistic dream sequence where a man hugs his sister and pulls away only to find that she is really only a doll. We then learn that the man lives with his sister and that they put on puppet shows for kids. Marino sees the missing report of the first woman who was killed on TV and remarks that the woman looks eerily similar to one of her dolls. Foreshadowing? Perhaps. After some sweet karaoke-bar action, an apparently unrelated woman is almost raped by an apparently unrelated man, who is then killed by Numai. Still no killer dolls. The woman who was nearly raped then goes back to the scene of the crime only to find her attacker’s body. As she drags him away she tells him, “You’re my marionette now.” Did this really happen? I’m a little confused, as we then see the woman trapped in the killer’s house.

We get some weird backstory where we see a dollmaker named Iwata who apparently loves his dolls more than his wife. Ultimately, he kills her and dumps her body in a pond. After returning, he discovers that the pond turned her body into wax, so he carves a doll out of her.

Numai then tells Marino that she can be eternally beautiful like that too and dumps her into what looks like a high-tech sensory-deprivation chamber, where her body is turned into wax. This brings us to the plot of the film. Similar to both Tourist Trap and the original House of Wax, Numai is apparently killing people and turning their bodies into life size mannequins. The twist, however, is that he focuses solely on women, dragging this movie into pure fetishistic-sleaze territory.

The film seems to want to make a larger statement about how all art is really an attempt to make beauty captive, but because the film is so confusing and misogynistic it never really reaches that level. Instead we have creepy guy randomly stalking women and turning them into dolls.

Marino’s brother finds the reclusive Marrionnier’s hideout and discovers his secret, and again he attempts to hug his sister only to find that what he is holding is really a wax doll. This is the film’s really only effective scene, and the fact that it is used so often suggests that the film wants to blur our notions of what is real and what is plastic. This is actually a pretty interesting idea and, as noted in Freud’s The Uncanny, attempting to make the audience question whether someone is real or an automaton is an effective way to create a sense of unreality and horror. Unfortunately, here it becomes just an excuse for jump scare after jump scare.

The film seems to want to say something about how women want to be beautiful forever and men want women to be beautiful forever. Isn’t isolating beauty into an inanimate object then the next logical step to our obsession with beauty? Of course not, but the film is trying to isolate that kind of cultural thought pattern and show us its grotesque underbelly. What is interesting, however, is the way that the fear of inanimate objects transcends cultural barriers, as this film is Japanese.

At the end, Marino kills Numai while shouting, “I only wanted to make girls’ dreams come true! Boys will never ever understand! Girls dreams glitter forever!” — which reveals that both she and Numai have similar motives. Then the girl returns home, where she turns her brother and her friend into dolls and marries them. Was it reality or a dream? I’d tell you if I knew.

This was a seriously weird flick, and though the killer dolls were pretty cool, they only come into the movie during the last half. You have to sit through so many seemingly unrelated scenes that I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who suffers from ADD or epileptic seizures. The larger statement about “art possessing beauty” is an interesting touch in a generally thoughtless genre, but the film never actually makes that point because it only shows us obsession after obsession without giving us time to think. This film is confusing, and not in a good David Lynch sort of way, but in the sort of way where you stop paying attention and begin to wonder whether you’ve accidentally swallowed twelve tabs of acid.

–Dustin Acton


Doll/Toy Index
Monster Index