WIHM Female Violence and Jealously in À l’intérieur

Inside (2007) – originally released in France as À l’intérieur – is an intense gore fest masquerading as a home invasion film. Filmed in chronological order to keep the set loyal to the amount of bloodshed that would occur had this been a real-life situation, the movie unfolds to become so graphic the body horror leaves one completely uncomfortable. On top of the agonising special effects and the claustrophobia caused by being terrorised in a little house, is the ultimate element of a battle between two women, something not explored often in the horror genre. The villain is credited as La Femme, stating her position as a very female presence and the protagonist is Sarah, who is due to give birth the next morning.

The horror starts for Sarah after awakening from a nap on the couch. She finds out earlier that day she will be induced for labour in less than 24 hours, which also happens to be Christmas Day. Her blank expressions and unenthused emotions about becoming a mother are explained in the opening moments of the film as a car crash occurs, taking the life of Sarah’s husband just four months before. Her state of depression is seen in her overall appearance and in her lack of a decision on what to name the baby girl. This should be a time of mourning, yet Sarah is forced to forget her own pain and emotion in order to keep life flowing forward as easy as possible, an emotional sacrifice many women are much too used to.

Her nap is interrupted by the doorbell and a woman asking to use her telephone. Sarah lies, stating her husband is asleep which the unknown person on the other side states, “Your husband’s not sleeping, Sarah. He’s dead.” Sarah phones the police to explain the situation and the fact this woman stalking her premises knows her name and other facts about her. The police arrive but assume that Sarah’s anxiety is superfluous and consider the matter a trivial case. A female police officer asks if she is sure that the person she saw was a woman, hinting at a possible hysteria, and dismissing the possibility a female could be the cause of domestic terror. This inquest into Sarah’s experience as the possible victim of another woman’s malevolent actions is vital to the overall theme of the film because it sets up to debunk the false idea that all women love and support each other. Any person that might identify with feminine qualities understands how toxic female relationships can be; and for Sarah, this harmful encounter with La Femme is rooted in ultimate jealousy.

Somehow, La Femme gets inside the house while Sarah is cosy in her own bed. She walks into the presumed nursery and her shadow falls upon the baskets full of blankets and baby items. The intruder comes across a music box and begins to wind the lever on the side as a lullaby begins to play. This is followed with the images of La Femme’s next move – touching the snoozing Sarah’s very plump stomach with a pair of scissors – explaining the antagonist’s motives to the viewer. La Femme is after Sarah’s unborn daughter and is willing to do whatever it takes to take her.

Different parties that stop by Sarah’s house assume that La Femme is a welcome guest, rather than an intruder, due to her feminine appearance. She is able to use her attributes to manipulate and forward her malicious plan of stealing what is inside Sarah. When it is necessary for her to be charming and gentle in order to mislead those who might try to help her victim, she is able to put on a splendid performance. However, La Femme is overall vicious and motivated by her want for the baby. She is willing to go do whatever it takes to complete what she has come to do. This is not unlike everyday girl-on-girl battles. The facade of support for another woman when really the only desire is to forward our own wants and desires is the result of a white patriarchal attitude that longs to have women cutting each other down. We have been told to exploit our typical female qualities for our own use, even if it results in other women around us being hurt or put at a serious disadvantage. If we continue to hurt the other women around us, half the work for male domination is complete and the systems of oppression can continue to flourish.

After hours of fighting for her life, it is revealed why this bloody battle for Sarah’s baby is happening on Christmas Eve. La Femme was the other driver involved in the car crash that changed Sarah’s life four months prior. Both women were pregnant and while Sarah lost her partner, her pregnancy survived. La Femme was not as lucky, as a miscarriage left her lonely and resentful. All the intense action and anxiety as she fights for her life causes Sarah’s water to break. There is a tender moment where La Femme seems to want to help her prey, as the labouring mother yells and screams. This sympathy immediately disappears as the incoming child gets stuck and La Femme cuts open Sarah’s stomach to grab the baby for her own. This moment of reconciliation is really a moment of weakness, which is taken advantage of by La Femme to get what she wanted all along. Her disregard for Sarah’s life has been obvious since her first sinister words were spoken through the door at the beginning of the film yet it is hard to think that a moment like childbirth would be taken advantage of. In the end, La Femme gets the child but no cries can be heard, possibly alluding to its own lack of survival. But La Femme does not care about life or death as she sits in a rocking chair, singing to the newborn in her arms. It was never about stealing the baby. It was about having what another woman had that was once taken away from her. It was about revenge.

There is a false concept that in order to reach goals and find success, we must first cut open the deepest parts of our fellow sisters, searching their most intimate parts and stealing what they have that would satisfy our own insecurities. It is common practice and thought that unfair scrutiny of our fellow ladies only will make oneself appear more put together and prosperous. Overall, these practices have become an easy way to find a false reward because of the white male-oriented world we live in. Yes, I am saying that hurting other women might result in whatever success it is you search for but the cost is where one must not have a soul or a steady code of ethics or a true grasp as to what feminism stands for.

The little details that went into Sarah’s torture that resulted in death were all due to female presence. The cause of her lack of self-care was due to the unborn baby girl inside her. Not saying children are to be blamed for life circumstances but the emotional pain of pregnancy is seen as women’s work. This is common in the case of unwanted pregnancy where a man walks away easily and no repercussions are placed upon him because he is not the one physically carrying the fetus. The female police officer who questioned Sarah’s experience of a female stalker outside her residence could have prevented the following events but chose to believe women are not something to fear despite Sarah’s obvious concern for her safety. The obvious female force at work in this film is La Femme, who embodies all the attributes of a problematic female who appears the part but in the end, is only out for her own gain.

This gruesome film is one that is difficult to watch due to the realism in the body horror but also the continued ignorance that others who walk into the situation display. In an interview with SciFi Now in 2009, co-writer and co-director Julien Maury stated that after the first draft had been written by his partner, Alex Bustillo, they had the idea to change the killer to a woman. He said they wanted to explore the possible motivation for a woman to hunt another woman. Though everyday female conflict does not involve stalking, jealousy towards another woman’s pregnancy, kidnapping from the womb, intense violence, and death there is an element that Inside accurately represents – the truth that despite the mainstream feminist movements that have spread, women are each other’s worst enemies. This is due to the core of white patriarchal society that teaches women that we must compete for masculine attention and supports the ideas of the false male identity. If the majority of women continue to ignore or question if harm could possibly come from another female, who is supposed to be an ally and help pave the way for success for others who might come after or even beside them, an equilibrium will not be found and progress cannot be made.

Inside is an interesting instance in a horror film where both the sufferer and the evildoer are women. This exploration started with two friends who asked what would cause a woman to hunt another but in the real world, what would be the answer?

 

by Shea Vassar

Shea Vassar is currently studying film at Hunter College in New York City. When not exploring themes of female experience in cinema, she likes to cheer on the Oklahoma City Thunder (a basketball team) and not talk about herself in the third person. Her favorite films are Mulholland Dr, Singin’ in the Rain, The Love Witch, and The Lure. You can follow her on Twitter @justsheavassar.

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