As sometimes will happen, I started thinking about the Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce (1985) this afternoon. Some of you may recall this as the movie wherein beautiful vampires from space walk buck naked around London sucking the life out of everyone in their way. I do so enjoy the tragically under utilized theme of space vampires (Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires being my favorite), and I occasionally come back to this film in my imagination, for it made a deep impression on me (for several reasons) when it came out in the mid-80s.
And while thinking about it this afternoon, I finally made a connection that was staring me in the face for all these years: Eugène Ionesco’s play The Lesson. I’m now, once again, excited about re-watching Lifeforce. I loved Ionesco’s plays while an undergrad, and my all-time favorite remains The Lesson because it was just so wild to experience the young student, so full of vivacity and innocence, come into the older, seemingly meek professor’s flat for a lesson, only to be increasingly sapped of all her energy and wonder as the play progressed. Her docent’s mounting anger and abusive attacks on her ignorance as the play progressed were beautifully wrought. At the end of the play the professor had literally sucked all the life out of this student, and it ends with him ominously greeting his next victim.
And while the professor actually murders the student with a knife, the vampire theme is really what I like about this play. You can frame this life force metaphor for tapping some one’s “bodily essence” in so many fun ways. And while Tobe Hooper’s film is far less subtle and linguistically provocative than Ionesco’s play, the actual scenes of life sucking and the resulting shriveled up corpses certainly hold a space in my imagination right alongside Ionesco’s superb absurdity.
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