“I generally don’t make films to entertain people,” Rampling said. “I choose the parts that challenge me to break through my own barriers. A need to devour, punish, humiliate, or surrender seems to be a primal part of human nature, and it’s certainly a big part of sex. To discover what normal means, you have to surf a tide of weirdness.”
And then, there’s the “ice queen” piece-
She had spent half a lifetime not just being looked at, but being exposed to gazes that were often sexual but rarely friendly. There is, after all, such a thing as hostility to beauty, an anger towards it on the part of those whom it most captivates.
No doubt, too, Rampling was sick of being imputed with a personality that was not hers. The critic David Thomson was typical and perceptive about this misunderstanding in her entry for his Biographical Dictionary of Film. “She has not just a chilly edge,” he wrote, “but the capacity to make us suspect a cold heart. So, she has her share of narrow-faced villains, not always more than baleful gargoyles.”
It was almost as though she was seen not as a woman but as an ice queen, with a perfectly frozen bone structure and terrifyingly beautiful hooded eyes….
Think of her as the passive, damaged Nazi victim who meets her former concentration camp commandant after the war in Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter. There, she was a sadist’s wet dream. Or recall her as the beautiful-but-crazy Dorrie, Woody Allen’s muse in Stardust Memories, the 1980 film in which she gave us a compelling account of mental breakdown in a film ostensibly about a narcissistic comedian’s neuroses. Or remember her as Paul Newman’s cold-hearted betrayer in Sidney Lumet’s The Verdict (what was its verdict? Treachery is woman).
In all these films, the director’s desire to use her beauty to create something (a muse, a victim, a ball-breaker) had more to do with their psychodrama than Rampling’s. The real Charlotte Rampling, whoever that was, slipped away unnoticed.