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Sévérine

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Sévérine
James Bond character
A woman wearing a long black evening gown that features several transparent panels with tattoo designs. The text features the title of the film and the release date.
Bérénice Marlohe as Sévérine
First appearance Skyfall
Portrayed by Bérénice Marlohe
Information
Gender Female
Occupation
  • Raoul Silva's representative
  • Sex slave (former)
Affiliation Raoul Silva
Classification Bond girl

Sévérine is a fictional character who appears in the 23rd James Bond film Skyfall (2012). Played by Bérénice Marlohe, Sévérine is a former sex slave who works as an accomplice of Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem). She collaborates with James Bond (Daniel Craig) to stop her boss, but is captured and killed by Silva.

Marlohe had secured the role after two auditions for director Sam Mendes and casting director Debbie McWilliams. She looked to Xenia Onatopp as a point of inspiration for her performance. Distancing herself from the Bond girl title, she interpreted the character as more modern and realistic. Media commentators characterized Sévérine as a femme fatale and an anti-heroine. Costume designer Jany Temime designed Sévérine's wardrobe using concepts from film noir as well as contemporary fashion, with close attention paid to the black dress she wears when meeting Bond in a Macau casino.

Following Sévérine's first appearances in promotional materials for Skyfall, film critics noted that the character was a return to the classic elements of the James Bond films, specifically Bond meeting a beautiful and mysterious woman. Critics had a mixed response to Sévérine when compared to previous Bond girls. Reception to Bond's treatment of Sévérine was largely negative; commentators panned Bond's seduction of the character after discovering that she was a sex slave, and his cold response to her death. However, some critics defended Sévérine's story arc as appropriate for Bond's character development. The character has also been a topic of racial criticism, with writer Lisa Funnell arguing that Sévérine was characterized as the Asian other.

Arc

Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe) first encounters James Bond (Daniel Craig) while on an assignment in Shanghai. She helps the mercenary Patrice (Ola Rapace) assassinate an art dealer by leading the target in front of a window. Bond confronts Patrice about his affiliations, but is unable to coerce any answers before the assassin falls out of a window to his death. Sévérine and Bond exchange a glance before she leaves the room. Bond takes the payment intended for Patrice, a token for a casino in Macau.

Sévérine greets Bond on his arrival at the casino. They share a drink at the bar and discuss the subjects of death and fear. Bond presses her for more information about her boss Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) to which she responds fearfully and cautions him not to look for further information. Identifying her wrist tattoo as the mark of the Macau sex trade, Bond deduces that she was once a sex slave and was taken in by Silva to work as his representative under the guise of being "rescued".[a] Promising to help her escape from Silva and to kill him, Bond asks for Sévérine to arrange a meeting with her boss. Sévérine trusts him and warns him about her guards' intentions to assassinate him by throwing him into a pit with komodo dragons. She tells Bond that if he survives, he can find her on her yacht, the Chimera.

Bond dispatches Sévérine's guards and sneaks aboard her boat. After he joins her in the shower, the two have sex. While approaching Silva's base on Dead Island, Sévérine becomes more afraid and tells Bond that it is not too late to retreat. However, they are taken prisoner by the guards, handcuffed and escorted through an abandoned city on the island. She explains to Bond that Silva made the natives believe a leak at the local chemical plant required them to evacuate the island. This allowed him to use it as his base of operations. Sévérine is separated from Bond, and is brutally beaten for her betrayal. After Bond is interrogated by Silva, he is taken to a courtyard, where Sévérine is bound to a statue. Silva places a shot glass of Scotch whisky on her head, and challenges Bond to shoot it with an antique percussion cap pistol. Bond misses the target, and Silva responds by shooting her in the head.[3]

Development

Casting and influences

A woman with long dark hair is looking to the left.
Bérénice Marlohe looked to Famke Janssen's (pictured) performance as Xenia Onatopp as inspiration for her character.[4]

Sévérine is portrayed by French actress Bérénice Marlohe.[5] After hearing about a casting call for Skyfall in Paris,[6] Marlohe contacted the movie's director Sam Mendes through Facebook and sent her acting reel to the casting director Debbie McWilliams by email.[5][7] A strong believer in fate, Marlohe stated that she had a dream about acting alongside Javier Bardem six months before her Bond audition, and interpreted it as a positive sign that she would get the part.[8] She auditioned twice for the role, first for McWilliams and then for Mendes.[5][7] Marlohe is one of several French actresses to portray a Bond girl.[9][b] Following the film's release, Marlohe identified the role as a transition in her career as it led to further acting opportunities, and her decision to work with a Hollywood talent agent.[10]

As a fan of James Bond films, Marlohe felt connected to the franchise and said that it allowed "a lot of freedom in creation [of a character] because it is a world between reality and imagination".[5] She added that she was more intrigued by the villains, particularly Grace Jones' performance as May Day in the 1985 film A View to a Kill.[5][6] She also said that she enjoyed Famke Janssen's role as Xenia Onatopp in the 1995 film GoldenEye,[6] citing her as her favorite Bond girl.[7] When asked about her preference for antagonists, Marlohe responded that she enjoyed parts that have "elements of whimsy and madness to them".[6] Marlohe also listened to the soundtracks of the earlier films to better inform her performance, saying that she focused on "respecting the spirit of the James Bond movies".[11]

Characterization

Marlohe based her performance as Sévérine around the mythological chimera, explaining that she wanted to emphasize a sense of "dangerousness spreading through her".[5] When asked to define the traits of a Bond girl, she described the role as "a powerful woman with a kind of male charisma and male power" and a "bit of animality".[12] During promotional interviews, Marlohe advocated for the removal of the title of Bond girl,[13] explaining that she aimed to imagine the character as more modern and realistic; she described the Bond girl as "a beautiful concept but it's a concept, and I wanted to create a real human being".[12] She said that she did not want Sévérine to be simply labelled as either good or bad.[7]

Media commentators characterized Sévérine as a femme fatale[6][14][15] and an anti-heroine.[16][17] Time's Lily Rothman viewed Marlohe as a "mix of good and evil, strong and vulnerable, aloof and up for some intimacy with the ever-seductive 007".[12] Julian Sancton of Forbes cited Sévérine as an example of a character with a set of morals comparable to Bond,[6] while Yahoo!'s Frank DiGiacomo described the character's personality as a combination of sex appeal, deception, and fear.[18] While discussing Sévérine's impact on the plot, Alyssa Rosenberg of ThinkProgress interpreted her as a pawn in the conflict between Bond and Silva.[19]

Marlohe expanded on Sévérine's personality beyond what was written in the screenplay. She said that she partially based the character's personality from Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker in the 2008 film The Dark Knight.[11] She also thought more critically about Sévérine's relationship with Silva, saying: "I just built everything with my imagination, and that is very exciting, too, because there's room for accidents on set."[20] GMA Network's Mikhail Lecaros wrote that Marlohe approached the character with a "bemused cynicism".[21] Daniel Craig praised Marlohe's approach to the character, saying that she created a deep background for the more minor role. He added that he felt her preparation made the scenes easier to act, and would make the interactions between Bond and Sévérine more appealing to the audience.[5]

Fashion

While creating Sévérine's wardrobe, costume designer Jany Temime paid close attention to maintaining a sense of mystery around the character. She referred to designs from film noir as well as contemporary fashion, such as selecting a shift dress from one of L'Wren Scott's 2012 collections due to its 1940s silhouette.[22] For all the outfits, Temime emphasized the character's sexuality, saying that she planned for everything to appear "sensual and womanly" on her.[23] The designer interpreted Sévérine through her sexuality and aimed to showcase the character as "sexy and exceptional and dark" while having her appear as naked as possible.[24]

The backless evening gown that Sévérine wears when she first meets Bond was created from black satin and decorated with a total of 60,000 Swarovski crystals.[22][24] The crystals were applied to tulle in a tattoo design that was directly inspired by prints from Swarovski's Paris atelier; they appear on the neckline, arms, back, and the sides of the garment.[25] The dress took six months to complete.[24] Temime designed it based on Rita Hayworth's black dress from the 1946 film Gilda. Designer Stephen Webster created the jewelry for the outfit by looking to modern Gothic style for inspiration.[22] Marlohe said that she had an influence on the final design of the dress. It took a long time for her to get into it with help from the film's crew; she was sewn into one part of it. Despite this, she said she felt comfortable in it.[12] Six different versions of the body of the dress were created to accommodate the filming schedule; Marlohe changed twice a day during the production, and had to be sewn back into the dress each time.[24] Along with the evening gown, Sévérine also wore a red dress created by designer Donna Karan.[23]

Throughout the James Bond films, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman commissioned high quality clothing and jewelry for the female characters to "transmit the same aura of luxury that Ian Fleming conjured in his bestselling spy thrillers".[22] Marlohe felt that her character's wardrobe allowed her to better situate her performance,[12] referencing the dress as her way of transforming into Sévérine.[25] She interpreted it as resonating with a "feeling of power and the quality of being salvaged" and the long resin nails as showing "part of a dragon in [her character]". Since she had to wear the nails both on and off the set, she felt they helped her stay in character and explained that they "would feed [her] all the time with that feeling of being dangerous".[12]

Critical reception

Sévérine attracted critical attention following her first appearances in promotion related to the film. She was in the first preview video for Skyfall, which showed her initial encounter with Bond in the Macau casino.[26] The character and the black dress featured prominently on one of the film's posters.[14][24][27] Sévérine is mostly absent from the trailer, which Marlohe attributed to keeping her character's storyline a surprise for viewers.[7] Screen Crush's Mike Sampson described the preview as reminiscent of those of earlier James Bond films, where Bond introduces himself to an attractive woman. Sampson wrote that the conventional James Bond elements in the scene, and Sévérine's character, marked the promotion of Skyfall as a "return to old school Bond [...] with a slightly modern feel".[26] Den of Geek!'s Max Williams referenced the sequence as "one beautiful encounter".[15]

Critics were divided on whether Sévérine was an improvement compared to previous female characters in James Bond films. John Boone of Entertainment Tonight wrote that Sévérine was not as fully realized as Vesper Lynd's role in the 2006 film Casino Royale, but felt she was a more promising character than Mary Goodnight from The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and Octopussy from the 1983 film of the same name.[28] In contrast, The New Daily's Susannah Guthrie dismissed Sévérine, along with Strawberry Fields and Camille Montes from Quantum of Solace (2008), as less memorable than Pussy Galore and Honey Rider.[29]

Media commentators have noted how Sévérine matches the general characteristics of a Bond girl. Jack Carr of Moviepilot classified Sévérine as the franchise's representation of women as sex objects, writing that she will "inevitably wind up dead herself the morning after [...] in a cruel demonstration of instant karma".[30] While reviewing the evolution of the Bond girl, Rothman identified Sévérine as following the trope of the damsel in distress,[31] and Ian Dunt of Politics.co.uk found Bond's seduction of the character adhered to expectations for the franchise.[32] However, Jim Windolf of Vanity Fair noted that unlike previous Bond girls, Sévérine's name was not constructed from a double entendre.[33]

Feminist criticism

The story arc involving Bond's treatment of Sévérine has been widely criticized by media commentators. Bustle's Casey Cipriani criticized Bond's seduction of Sévérine after learning about her past sexual abuse as a child, and his response to her death. Cipriani cited the representation of Sévérine in the film as an example of the sexism prevalent throughout the franchise.[34] Echoing Cipriani's sentiment, Jeff Bercovici of Forbes found the sequences of Bond having sex with Sévérine and the character's death to be irresponsible portrayals of sexual trafficking and violence, noting it is consistent with the "[s]exual hyper-aggressiveness and putting women in harm's way" often seen in the films. National Sexual Violence Resource Center director Tracy Cox wrote that the film contributed to the false idea of "victims of sexual violence [being] sexually available," and felt that Bond "abus[ed] his power and authority". The Frisky's Julie Gerstein argued that Bond's expectation that Sévérine would have sex with him in return for freeing her is a form of "transaction" that places her as a prisoner of both Bond and Silva. Psychoanalyst Heather Genoves also responded negatively to the sex scene, writing that it was "rather tacky to then put that into a sex-trafficking narrative".[35] On the other hand, The Atlantic's Noah Berlatsky found the conversation between Sévérine and Bond about her past as a sex slave to be the film's most successful scene, and praised the performances of both actors. However, Berlatsky was critical of Bond's subsequent seduction of the character.[36]

Critical response to Sévérine's death sequence was primarily negative. Dunt criticized Bond's comment following Sévérine's death—"Waste of good Scotch"—as "brutish and uncaring".[32] Jade Budowski of The Tribeca Film Institute described the scene as "unpalatable", and wrote that she "sense[d] it in the shifting of some of my neighbors in the theater," specifically after the delivery of Bond's line. She argued that the sequence returned to the franchise's earlier treatment of women as "expendable figures" viewing them only as "sex objects, eye candy, and plot devices".[37] Berlatsky argued that Sévérine existed for the sole purpose of "lend[ing] weight to Craig's perspicuity, sexiness, and imperviousness".[36] Paste's Kenneth Lowe found Bond's behavior toward women to be negative, citing Sévérine's death as a prominent example.[38]

Some critics defended the scene as appropriate for Bond's character development. While HuffPost's Daniel Wood felt that the Sévérine was killed too early in the film, he associated her death with the removal of the "harmless chauvinism" starting from Casino Royale, and better connected with Bond's emotionally deficient character. Wood acknowledged that the representation of female characters as "commodities" was negative, but argued it suited Bond's characterization.[39] James Peaty of Den of Geek! interpreted the moment as purposefully unexpected in order to show the audience "how out of sorts Bond has become and that perhaps the greatest threat he faces this time out is his own inertia and ineptitude" and shift the film's focus to M (Judi Dench).[40]

Racial criticism

In the chapter "(D)evolving Representations of Asian Women in Bond Films" from her 2015 book For His Eyes Only: The Women of James Bond, writer Lisa Funnell argued Sévérine was characterized as the Asian other through the black evening gown. By emphasizing the character's make-up and nails, she felt that the film draws on the iconography of the Dragon Lady to establish an expectation that Sévérine as a major part of the storyline.[41] Addressing this set-up, Funnell wrote that Sévérine's characterization had adhered more to that of the racial stereotype of the "tragic Lotus Blossom," a term that she coined and defined as a "submissive and industrious figure who is eager to please the white male hero".[41][42] She also categorized Aki and Kissy Suzuki as falling under this trope.[43] She supported her assessment by pointing to the character's lack of agency and impact on the film's main narrative, describing Sévérine as "one of the most disempowered, pitiful, and tragic women in the Bond film franchise".[41] In comparison to her positive assessment of Wai Lin in the 1997 film Tomorrow Never Dies, Lisa Funnell criticized Sévérine as based on outdated ideas.[44]

Notes

  1. ^ To pass China's censorship laws, references to prostitution were removed from the subtitles. Sévérine's tattoo was changed from a symbol of a Chinese sex trafficking operation to that of a gang.[1][2]
  2. ^ Other French actresses that auditioned for the role included: Carole Bouquet, Claudine Auger, Sophie Marceau, and Eva Green.[6] British actress Gemma Chan also auditioned for the part.[9]

References

Citations

  1. ^ Battersby, Matilda (January 17, 2013). "Prostitution and torture censored from Skyfall to appease Chinese market". The Independent. Archived from the original on May 6, 2017. 
  2. ^ Tsui, Clarence (January 16, 2013). "Chinese Censors Clamp Down on 'Skyfall'". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Archived from the original on May 6, 2017. 
  3. ^ Sam Mendes (director) (2012). Skyfall (Film). Columbia Pictures. 
  4. ^ Simon Reynolds and Tom Mansell (March 26, 2012). "'Skyfall': Bérénice Marlohe talks Bond girl Severine – video – Movies News". Digital Spy. Hearst Communications. Archived from the original on November 1, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g King, Susan (November 10, 2012). "'Skyfall': Berenice Marlohe stands tall as Severine". Los Angeles Times. Tronc. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Sancton, Julian (November 8, 2012). "Talking in French with Skyfall's Bond Girl". Esquire. Hearst Communications. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Singer, Leigh (May 23, 2012). "Skyfall: Bond Girl Bérénice Marlohe Interview". IGN. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  8. ^ McGurk, Stuart (August 3, 2012). "Skyfall's heavenly body". GQ. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on July 7, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Johnston, Lucy Hunter (May 10, 2013). "Gemma Chan: the bombshell actress who tamed Jack Whitehall". London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on June 16, 2013. 
  10. ^ Malkin, Marc (April 4, 2015). "Former Bond Girl Bérénice Marlohe Has Kissed Daniel Craig and Anton Yelchin — Who's Next?". E! News. E!. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  11. ^ a b Patches, Matt (May 2, 2012). "Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe: The New Bond Girls Dish on 'Skyfall'". Hollywood.com. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f Rothman, Lily (November 9, 2012). "New Bond Girl Bérénice Marlohe on Joining the Exclusive Club—and Its Fashion Perks". Time. Time Inc. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  13. ^ Freydkin, Donna (November 7, 2012). "Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe double up for 007". USA Today. Gannett Company. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  14. ^ a b Outlaw, Kofi (August 9, 2012). "'Skyfall' Character Posters & Banner: James Bond's New Friends & Foes". Screen Rant. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  15. ^ a b Williams, Max (January 25, 2016). "James Bond 007: revisiting Skyfall". Den of Geek!. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  16. ^ Ruby, Jennifer (November 5, 2015). "Lea Seydoux: Madeleine Swann is not really a Bond girl… she's a real character". London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  17. ^ "Bond Girls: Where Are They Now?". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. November 6, 2015. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  18. ^ DiGiacomo, Frank (November 9, 2012). "Bond Girl To Bad Girl: 'Skyfall' Siren Bérénice Marlohe Hints She's Going Gangster For Next Film". Yahoo!. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  19. ^ Rosenberg, Alyssa (November 16, 2012). "'Skyfall' And The Resurrection Of James Bond". ThinkProgress. Center for American Progress. Archived from the original on May 6, 2017. 
  20. ^ Calautti, Katie (October 22, 2012). "Skyfall Cast and Crew Talk Action, Chemistry and a Wet James Bond". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  21. ^ Lecaros, Mikhail (November 3, 2012). "Movie review: '007' franchise faces the future by returning 'Bond' to his roots". GMA Network. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  22. ^ a b c d Musgrave, Eric; Cosgrave, Bronwyn (October 12, 2012). "The spy who clothed me". Financial Times. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  23. ^ a b "Bond's femme fatales 'womanly and sensual'". News.com.au. November 16, 2012. Archived from the original on November 11, 2017. 
  24. ^ a b c d e Karmali, Sarah (October 25, 2012). "Skyfall's Designer On Dressing A Bond Girl". Vogue. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  25. ^ a b "Exclusive: Behind the scenes with Skyfall's costume designer". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on November 28, 2012. 
  26. ^ a b Sampson, Mike (October 12, 2012). "'Skyfall' Clip: Meet Sévérine, the New Bond Girl". ScreenCrush. Townsquare Media. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  27. ^ Lesnick, Silas (September 13, 2012). "Check Out the Domestic One-Sheet for Skyfall". Comingsoon.net. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  28. ^ Boone, John (November 3, 2015). "'Spectre' Review: If a Woman Doesn't Have Sex With James Bond, Did She Ever Really Exist?". Entertainment Tonight. CBS Television Distribution. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  29. ^ Guthrie, Susannah (November 5, 2015). "Bond needs a break: why Spectre is a big letdown". The New Daily. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  30. ^ Carr, Jack (December 9, 2016). "No More Pussy Galore For 007: Has The Bond Girl Evolved From Piece Of Ass To Post-Feminist Sass?". Moviepilot. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  31. ^ Rothman, Lily (November 9, 2015). "Fighting, Flirting, Feminism: The Bond Girl Evolution". Time. Time Inc. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  32. ^ a b Dunt, Ian (October 29, 2012). "The politics of Skyfall". Politics.co.uk. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  33. ^ Windolf, Jim (July 2012). "Careful, Mr. Bond". Vanity Fair. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  34. ^ Ciprani, Casey (November 4, 2015). "Why James Bond Needs To Change In Order To Keep The Franchise Alive". Bustle. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  35. ^ Bercovici, Jeff (November 9, 2012). "James Bond in 'Skyfall': Hero, Patriot and...Exploiter of Sex Trafficking Victims?". Forbes. Archived from the original on December 23, 2016. 
  36. ^ a b Berlatsky, Noah (November 12, 2012). "James Bond's New, Not-So-Progressive Mommy Complex". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  37. ^ Budowski, Jade (November 5, 2012). "Does Liking James Bond Make Me a Bad Feminist?". Tribeca Film Institute. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  38. ^ Lowe, Kenneth (March 1, 2016). "What Every Woman Would Like: The Declining Sex Life of 007". Paste. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  39. ^ Wood, Daniel (January 13, 2013). "What Next for James Bond". HuffPost. AOL. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  40. ^ Peaty, James (November 2, 2012). "Skyfall: a spoiler-filled exploration". Den of Geek!. Archived from the original on May 2, 2017. 
  41. ^ a b c Funnell (2015): p. 86.
  42. ^ Funnell (2015): p. 82.
  43. ^ Funnell (2015): p. 81.
  44. ^ Funnell (2015): p. 87.

Book sources

  • Funnell, Lisa (2015). "(D)evolving Representations of Asian Women in Bond Films". For His Eyes Only: The Women of James Bond. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-17614-9. 

External links

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