The Beguiled is set in a small girls’ school in the South that continued to house students during the war. An injured Union soldier is discovered and brought back to the school by one of the young students. The film focuses on the tension between the women in response to this new male presence, rather than on the war itself. The movie provides a window into what it was like to live on the homefront during the Civil War.
The film was made in an era of Lost Cause-sympathizing Westerns. As a result, the Union soldier is portrayed as a manipulator, turning the women of this small school against each other. The film also portrays the women as catty, showing the breakdown of their relationships in response to the arrival of a male figure within their female isolation.
The film was well-received by critics, who enjoyed its extremely gothic tone. While it did not garner a large audience, the film was particularly enjoyed by French audiences. The Beguiled was remade by Sophia Coppola in 2017 in an attempt to infuse a stronger feminist narrative into the film.
Anya Jabour, Scarlett’s Sisters: Young Women in the Old South, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.
Alecia Long and LeeAnn Whites, Occupied Women: Gender, Military Occupation, and the American Civil War, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009.
Victoria Ott, Confederate Daughters: Coming of Age During the Civil War, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2008.
Vincent Canby, “Clint Eastwood is Star of Siegel’s ‘The Beguiled,’” The New York Times, April 1, 1971.
Richard Brody, “The Beguiled (1971),” The New Yorker.
Susan Wioszczyna, “A Returning Visitor: Comparing the Two Versions of ‘The Beguiled,’” Roger Ebert, June 26, 2017.
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