La belle dame sans merci (1921, 80m, 35mm)

Taking its title from John Keats’s early 19th-century poem, this highly personal melodrama finds Dulac interrogating the archetype of the femme fatale. La belle dame sans merci follows a famous actress who was once seduced and abandoned by a rich man and subsequently resolved to become a “merciless woman,” forever scheming to hurt others (men in particular) in a ruthless yet captivating manner. Dulac challenges the Romantic archetype embodied in Keats’s poem by way of symbolist mise en scène, self-reflexive narration, and her typically associative approach to editing, locating a modern ambiguity within the stereotypical figures of 19th-century art.