“The Moth Diaries” delivers lesbianish, vampirish drama at an all-girls boarding school

Consider it that most rare of cinematic hat tricks: It’s a movie with hints of lesbianism, set in an all-girls’ boarding school that includes a suspected vampire. Yep, we’re talking a lesbian boarding school vampire drama. How has this movie not been made already?

The big-screen adaptation of The Moth Diaries, the debut novel by Rachel Klein, will premiere at the Venice International Film Festival Sept. 6. The film is noteworthy not only because of its lesbian vampire boarding school triumvirate, but it’s also the first film project in six years from writer-director Mary Harron. You may remember Harron from American Psycho (which she co-wrote with out actress Guinevere Turner), I Shot Andy Warhol (about radical lesbian activist and would-be Warhol assassin Valerie Solanas) and The Notorious Bettie Page (if you need help figuring out who Bettie Page is, might I suggest Google image search?).

Now, I haven’t read the novel – so I can’t say how big a role the potential lesbianism or vampirism plays. But from various descriptions I’ve read there could be more than just subtle undertones of both. From the Venice festival site:

Rebecca, a young girl haunted by her father’s suicide, begins her junior year at an elite girls boarding school, hoping for a fresh start. From the outset, her friendship with sunny, innocent Lucy is shattered by the arrival of Ernessa, a mysterious, dark and beautiful girl from Europe. As Ernessa consumes more and more of Lucy’s attention, the latter’s healthy young body grows pale, thin and weak – as if being drained of life itself. Her friendship with Lucy slipping away, Rebecca develops a crush on her handsome English professor, Mr. Davies, who is teaching a course on supernatural fiction.

Obsessed with LeFanu’s vampire storye Carmilla, she is increasingly suspicious of Ernessa’s odd behavior and Lucy’s wasting illness, and when mysterious deaths shock the school, becomes convinced that Ernessa is a vampire. Rebecca finds herself isolated when the other girls dismiss her suspicions as mere jealousy and Mr. Davies betrays her trust. As Lucy’s inexplicable illness turns deadly, Rebecca is left alone to battle with Ernessa for the life of her friend.

Rebecca will be played by The Tudors star Sarah Bolger (above right), Lucy will be played by Being Erica castmate Sarah Gadon (middle) and the pale, otherworldly Ernessa will be played by the pale, otherworldly model-turned-actress Lily Cole (left). Scott Speedman will play Mr. Davies.

The film will also screen next month at the Toronto International Film Festival. Its website calls The Moth Diaries a “chilling and evocative vampire tale set at an all-girl boarding school” and “a sinister and sensually modern film about dark pasts, the circulation of desire and the fragile line between the real and imagined.”

Hmm, looks like we might need to add “mental breakdowns” and “tragic deaths” to the movie’s assortment of well-worn lesbian cinematic tropes. Harron’s work has always been intriguing and willing to explore dark sexual and psychological issues. So hopefully the film will turn out to be more than just your standard-issue thriller where an obsession with one’s best friend ends with depression, death or confusing oneself with a falcon and jumping off a roof.

So, intrigued by The Moth Diaries? Been waiting all your life for a good lesbian vampire boarding school movie to come along? And, is it just me, or was Lily Cole born to play a vampire?

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