Review > Barbarella: The Bold and Brazen - Breaking the Mold in 1960s Cinema

27 April 2023

Barbarella, directed by Roger Vadim and starring Jane Fonda in the titular role, is a film that can be described as a wild, imaginative, and at times, nonsensical ride through the galaxy. Released in 1968, the film was a product of its time, featuring psychedelic visuals, a groovy soundtrack, and a storyline that blended science fiction, comedy, and sexuality. While it may not be a cinematic masterpiece in the traditional sense, Barbarella is a movie that is undeniably entertaining and has earned a place in pop culture as a cult classic.

barbarella film post jane fonda

Director Roger Vadim was known for his work in the French New Wave movement, and his influence can be seen in Barbarella's unconventional and experimental style. The film's screenplay was based on a French comic book series of the same name, and it was adapted for the screen by Vadim, Terry Southern, and others. Terry Southern was a prominent writer of the era, known for his satirical works such as Dr. Strangelove and Easy Rider, and his wit is evident in Barbarella's humorous moments.

Jane Fonda's performance as Barbarella is a standout, as she embodies the character's sensuality, courage, and naivete. Supporting actors such as John Phillip Law as Pygar and David Hemmings as Dildano also deliver memorable performances. The costumes and set design are a feast for the eyes, featuring an array of colorful and outlandish outfits, as well as imaginative spacecraft and futuristic landscapes.

Barbarella's plot follows the titular character as she travels through space on a mission to stop the evil scientist Durand Durand from using his Positronic Ray to destroy the universe. Along the way, Barbarella encounters various characters and obstacles, including a group of revolutionary outcasts and a sexually charged encounter with a blind angel. The plot may not always make logical sense, but it is filled with humor, action, and adventure that keep the viewer engaged.

One of the key themes of Barbarella is sexuality, as the film explores the idea of free love and sexual liberation. Barbarella herself is a sexual being who uses her sensuality to navigate through various situations. Another theme is the idea of breaking free from societal norms and conventions, as seen through the characters' rebellious attitudes and actions. Finally, the film touches on the dangers of technology and the potential for it to be misused for destructive purposes.

barbarella -angel Pygar -blind -angel

Barbarella was a pivotal role for Jane Fonda, who was a relatively unknown actress at the time of the film's release. Her portrayal of the sexually liberated and fearless Barbarella made her a star and a sex symbol of the era. Fonda's natural beauty, combined with the film's provocative and playful exploration of sexuality, helped to cement her status as an icon of the 1960s counterculture movement.

The sexualization of Jane Fonda in Barbarella was a controversial aspect of the film, as it pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable for a mainstream Hollywood production at the time. Fonda's revealing costumes and sexually charged scenes were seen as both liberating and exploitative by audiences and critics. However, Fonda herself has stated that she was empowered by the role and saw it as a way to challenge societal norms and expectations of female sexuality.

Upon its initial release, Barbarella was met with mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike. While some appreciated its campy and playful nature, others criticized it for being nonsensical and overly sexualized. Over time, however, the film has gained a cult following and is now widely regarded as an iconic piece of 1960s cinema.

Barbarella's legacy has been far-reaching, influencing subsequent science fiction films and even inspiring a musical adaptation in the early 2000s. Its place in popular culture as a campy and quirky cult classic is well-established, with many fans embracing its playful and imaginative qualities. However, the film is not without its flaws, including some clunky dialogue and a plot that can be difficult to follow at times.

In conclusion, Barbarella is a film that is both a product of its time and a timeless classic. Its playful exploration of sexuality and gender norms, combined with imaginative visuals and an iconic performance by Jane Fonda, make it a must-see for fans of science fiction and cult cinema. While it may not be a perfect film, its enduring legacy is a testament to its enduring appeal and ability to capture the spirit of a particular era in film history.

jane fonda as barbarella

Here are 15 bits of trivia about Barbarella:

1. The film is based on the French comic book series of the same name by Jean-Claude Forest.

2. The role of Barbarella was originally offered to Brigitte Bardot, who turned it down.

3. Jane Fonda almost didn't take the role, as she initially thought the script was too vulgar.

4. The film was directed by Roger Vadim, who was Fonda's husband at the time.

5. The set design and costumes were heavily influenced by the psychedelic art of the era.

6. The film's soundtrack features music by composer Michel Magne and includes a theme song by French pop star Claude François.

7. Duran Duran named their band after a character in the film, Dr. Durand Durand.

8. The character of Barbarella was originally intended to be a blonde, but Fonda dyed her hair black for the role.

9. The film was initially given an X rating in the US, but was later reclassified as R.

10. The film features a number of notable actors in minor roles, including John Phillip Law, Milo O'Shea, and Anita Pallenberg.

11. The film was shot on a low budget, with many of the special effects and set pieces being created using practical techniques.

12. The opening credits sequence features a psychedelic animated sequence by artist Pablo Ferro.

13. Jane Fonda performed many of her own stunts in the film, including a sequence where she swings from a birdcage.

14. The film was a box office success in Europe, but performed poorly in the US.

15. The film's popularity as a cult classic has led to a number of spin-offs and homages, including a comic book series, a stage musical, and references in popular culture such as in the TV show "Futurama."


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
From exploring the latest news and theories to discussing the classics, I aim to provide entertaining and informative content for all fans of the genre.

Whether you are a die-hard Star Trek fan or simply curious about the world of science fiction, The Astromech has something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and join me on this journey through the stars!
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