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The Bad Sister
dir. Laura Mulvey, Peter Wollen / UK 1983 / 93’
subtitles: Polish and English


Dawn Archibald, Kevin McNally, Matyelok Gibbs, Marty Cruikshank, Emma Jacobs

Film description

Transmitted during UK TV station, Channel 4 first months on air, The Bad Sister explores themes of insanity, sibling rivalry and transgressive maternal bonds amidst a fantastical setting influenced by ‘80s pop culture, psychedelia and punk. The film begins as a murder-mystery investigation into the suspected killing of the beautiful Ishebel and her father by her jealous illegitimate half-sister, Jane Wild. Highlighting Mulvey and Wollen’s shift from 16mm filmmaking to 1inch video television drama, the film uses multiple television screens, a recording studio and videotape interviews to piece together Jane’s story in a deconstructive style. Jane is haunted by the memory of both Ishebel’s murder and by her own mother’s mysterious death and as she becomes increasingly disturbed the film transforms into a fantasy melodrama. Mulvey and Wollen’s anarchic femme fatale dramatically cuts her hair and embarks on a trance-like tour of self discovery. Based on the novel by Emma Tennant, The Bad Sister subverts the subgenre of female twin melodramas from the 1940s, championing Jane’s power and using elegiac video effects to create an expressionist, dreamlike landscape.

Lara Thompson

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