Bête Noir

by: , April 19, 2018

Bête Noir is an experimental narrative short film that illuminates the internalization of the male gaze. Shot on black and white Super 8 film, a young woman drifts between consciousness as she tries to escape from the anxiety and shame that she experiences while meeting the gaze of other men.

‘Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.’ (Berger 1972:47)

The repetition of movements, actions and characters serve to enhance the tension and fear that she feels, while the surreal and dreamlike scenes of smoke and falling are to meant to show how deeply rooted this phenomenon is within the female subconscious. This presents the notion of a repeating nightmare, a state of mind that one cannot get out of.

The essential, yet subtle, theme of this film is power. The power of dominance, the power of objectification, the power of measuring a female’s self-worth. This film analyzes the rudimentary cause and effect of these, by focusing on the power of men looking, or rather the perverseness of being seen as a sexual object.

‘In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female form which is styled accordingly. In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness.’ (Mulvey 1989:19)

The effects of this subordination and a woman’s desire to not be reduced to such terms are conflicting elements exhibited within the female character of Bête Noir. These antagonistic emotions create an endless state of stress, a circular struggle that she is not able to break away from. She becomes limited in her abilities, as everything she does becomes an observation of herself. All of her self-doubt becomes pernicious, almost bringing her to the state of paranoia, as the audience comes to realize that the surveyor within herself is male. ‘Thus she turns herself into an object – and most particularly an object of vision: a sight’. (Berger 1972: 47)


Berger, John (1972), Ways of Seeing, London: Penguin Books Ltd.

Mulvey, Laura (1989), Visual and Other Pleasures,  New York: Palgrave.

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