“Salome’s Last Dance” depicts predatory (possessive and despotic) personal love as a phenomenon typical for many people in all the social strata in various historical epochs. By comparing the existential atmosphere in Ancient Judea under the Roman domination with the European modernity of the end of 19th century (where the film’s main action took place) and the end of the European post-WW2 democratic renaissance (when the film was made) Russell creates a universal picture of predatory love in its social and psychological aspects. “Salome’s Last Dance” is a comparative analysis of amorous encounter between two human beings (including princess Salome and John the Baptist, Herod and Herodias, and Lord Douglas/Bosie towards Oscar Wilde) as a fight for domination when even sexual desire becomes the instrument in this fight and even dependent position in love relations is used as a leverage to tie up and control another person.

Russell makes Oscar Wilde a character inside his film, in order to, it seems, open an additional historical perspective: scholarly versatilize Wilde’s play, and dramatize human personal encounters by showing its historical context and psychological universality. The director’s elaborate classification of the types of possessive love (all of them internalize and utilize the experience of social competitive fight by using amorous accent for its dramatic and psycho-dramatic intensification) quite applicable to our life in the 21st century is a serious achievement of this film.

Burlesque and tragedy mixed up on the screen, as it happens in life, defeating human imagination and moral idealism.

The acting is in the best tradition of English theater when actors not only articulate the characters’ emotions before the viewers but demonstrate their psychological roots. Glenda Jackson (Herodias and Lady Alice) and Stratford Johns (Herod and Alfred Taylor, the brothel keeper) gave in this film the sharpest performance of their long creative careers. Their mimic and intonational versatility are unique and memorable and transcend the code of commercial acting limited by the conformist orientation on the audience’s generic taste. Russell’s interesting analysis of the psychological peculiarities of homosexual love (based on love affair between Oscar Wilde and Lord Douglas/Bosie) is a part of his classification of types of personal love.

Watching the film is a challenge with a kind of creative and stimulating humiliation, especially for us, Americans today (formed by the consumption of mass cultural – degraded, products) who tend to think about themselves as cultural exception, somebody who live “after history”. Ken Russell puts us in our place by showing how in human history we are typical in our inflamed competitiveness, fight for higher place in social hierarchy and yearning to dominate over other people.

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Herod and his wife Herodias. She is permanently scheming to psychologically pressure her husband in order to influence his decisions, but his main strategy with her is to play innocent. He knows that to let her feel that she is dominating him is the best way to keep himself in charge of everything.

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Salome “handles” her stepfather’s guards through superficial seductiveness and glamorous manner, and it works because of her princess status. In short, guards agree to do whatever she wants them to because then they’ll feel godly rapport with emanation of her superiority. The more capriciously she behaves the more irresistible she becomes for them.

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Herod and his stepdaughter both seem high and over-relaxed but beneath the surface each is suspiciously over-alert to make the other to behave in his or her best interest.

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Salome with her decorative (artificial) phallus as a symbol of shining power manipulates her self-sacrificial admirer – the young Capitan of the Guards (who will later in the scene commit suicide right in front of his Princess) and simultaneously his admirer – the “golden page”.

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Oscar Wilde as a character in the film (on the left) with two another characters – Alfred Taylor, the brothel-keeper and a theater enthusiast (who also plays King Herod in his own directorial debut on the stage of his brothel) and Lady Alice (who also plays Herodias), all three are exceedingly, overwhelmingly, Wildesquely witty.

Posted on Aug, 26 2011 –   Ken Russell’s “Salome’s Last Dance” (1988) – Personal Love as an Idolatrous Association with Another Human Being Who Comes to Personify for the Subject Supreme Ontological Value by Acting-Out Politics