“Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidocq” – Film Review


This is a very stylized and disturbing movie, but I would definitely recommend it to fans of the Steampunk gestalt. If you are willing to deal with the subtitles, the special effects and unrepentant window into poverty make for a stunning and surreal adventure which definitely earns it’s R rating. Released in 2001, Dark Portals: The Chronicles of Vidocq is the English title of a French film called simply Vidocq.

Gerard DepardieuGerard Depardieu plays the title role of Eugene Francois Vidocq (the father of criminology and a real-life French figure of note), who is an occult detective on the grimy streets of Paris in 1830. He is on the trail of a masked serial killer, the Alchemist, but falls to his supernatural enemy within the first minutes of the film.

Amidst the tumult of the outbreak of the Second French Revolution (also known as the July Revolution), Vidoqc’s biographer Etienne (played by French heartthrob Guillaume Canet) tracks down witnesses to fill in the blanks in Vidocq’s investigation. Meanwhile, the terrifying Alchemist is still on the prowl and no one is safe from his mysterious powers, especially not the people Etienne seeks to find out the truth about Vidocq’s disappearance.

Vidoqc set 2While watching this film I was struck by how foreign it felt, which shouldn’t really have surprised me seeing as how it is a foreign film, but it definitely is not a Hollywood movie. First off, the hero is a middle-aged man with a bulbous nose and a thick middle (though he still kicks some serious Alchemist butt when they meet in the flashbacks that make up Etienne’s investigation). I love that they didn’t give the character the standard “action hero makeover”, but instead remained true to the historic figure. The extreme camera angles highlight derelict victims of the streets (think Les Miserables with more underage workers and filth) which is enhanced by jerky motion and makes the enclosed spaces like the glassworks feel downright suffocating. It is an absolutely stunning piece of film.

Ever since my first viewing, this film is in my personal “top five” Steampunk movies and I cannot recommend it enough for mature Steampunk fans.

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