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Countess of Blood (2008)

Directed by Juraj Jakubisko, Bathory – Countess of Blood is based on the story of Erzsébet Bathory, played by Anna Friel, a Hungarian countess in the 16th and 17th centuries. Her story takes place in a part of the Kingdom of Hungary that is now Slovakia. In this retelling, the Countess is a healer who conducts medical experiments and rudimentary autopsies in a “hospital” beneath her castle. She forms a relationship with a reputed witch, Darvulia, who saves her from poisoning. The witch promises Erzsebet a son and eternal beauty. In return, Erzsebet must sacrifice both love and her reputation. Darvulia becomes Erzsebet’s companion. Meanwhile, maidens in the area have been dying of seemingly unrelated causes, and Erzsebet is seen bathing in a large tub of red liquid as the girls’ now-mutilated corpses are buried nearby. Two monks later conclude that the water is not blood but is simply colored red by herbs.

After her husband Ferenc Nádasdy’s death, Erzsébet quarrels with his scheming friend György Thurzó, who tries to proposition her at her husband’s funeral. Thurzo’s lover, who is gifted with herbs, offers to help him get revenge for the rejection. Soon afterward, Erzsebet begins to have surreal visions and episodes. In one of these, she stabs a woman to death with scissors. Afterwards, she confesses to Darvulia that she can no longer tell dream from reality. Darvulia discovers that someone has been placing hallucinogenic mushrooms in Erzsébet’s drinks; Erzsébet cannot remember clearly and believes Darvulia responsible. She has the woman thrown out. Thurzó and his wife then capture Darvulia and torture her, cutting out her tongue. Before she dies, she writes Thurzó’s name in blood on her cell wall. Erzsébet swears vengeance on him.

Thurzó enlists Erzsébet’s sons-in-law and other allies to prosecute her for witchcraft. When their plans repeatedly fail, they nonetheless capture the Countess and torture members of her household to try to obtain incriminating information. The servants are then executed for their alleged crimes, and Erzsébet is imprisoned. Despairing over her separation from her son, she lies on her bed and begins to sing a hymn; the flames from her candles rise and engulf her in flames. Upon hearing of her death, Thurzo concedes that she has once again made the move he least expected, as when they once played chess together, and admits that he has always loved her.

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