WE ARE THE NIGHT: The Reluctant VampireJune 08, 2011
On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: WE ARE THE NIGHT (IFC MIDNIGHT).
WE ARE THE NIGHT
The reluctant vampire….it ain’t so easy being immortal
Dennis Gansel’s film is derivative of many in this genre and to name one in particular: Kathryn Bigelow’s NEAR DARK (1987). It plays around in tandem with the vampire and young-empowered-disenfranchised-female genres, yet instead of taking them into new directions and providing something complex, intriguing and thought-provoking, we are left with a sassy, entertaining, yet not wholly satisfying film.
But in the glut of recent vampires movies, most of which are dreck, sassy and entertaining is not so bad. I’d say this should attract the under 25 crowd more than others. My age somewhere north of that, I found myself humored immensely, yet still wanting to be somehow moved at these plight of these women forced into immortality. It never goes that far.
The protagonist, Lena (Karoline Herfurth) is a kind of Liz Salander-wanna-be, a tough, streetwise chick, missing the “wise.” She’s been busted for a few petty crimes and is on the run from and at the same time has fallen for a hot young cop, Tom (Max Riemelt). On a particular night, she’s allowed (or is she vampirically pulled?) to enter a kind of rave/nightclub (quintessentially our fantasies of Berlin), where a gorgeous 17th century-era vampiress, Louise (Nina Hoss) attempts to seduce her.
When she can’t quite succeed, Louise bites Lena’s long, young neck to make her one of their own. Lena becomes one of the living dead and has no choice but to join Louise’s trio, which includes Charlotte (Jennifer Ulrich), a silent film star, seduced and bitten by Louise in the 1920’s and Nora (Anna Fischer), a more recent recruit from the 70’s.
As fun as the party might be with the flashy trappings, blood-sucking and general good-times gore – the pack does some considerable damage to a gang of pimps and the whole goon squad of the Berlin police department - Lena just can’t seem to throw off her once-human side. She finds herself in love with the rather innocent, naïve young cop and just can’t get in with the killing. Nor can she get in the groove with her vampire pack-leader, Louise – and that’s seriously dangerous.
What works here is the chic, almost comic book style approach in cinematography and art direction. There are some truly great vampire-elements like super-cool bat moves,hanging off the walls and ceiling, and then the gorgeous panoramic vistas of the Berlin skyline at dusk and dawn.
Female renegades and vampires have something in common: they are alluring, mysterious, outrageous and defiant.
Outlaws on the fringes of society. Gansel might have gone a lot further in this direction. So what doesn’t work – it falls short of going into a real cult direction. Particularly the climatic moments in Act 3 feel truncated, diminished. The ending makes up for it a bit in its leaving us suspended and allowing for our own interpretation as to what becomes of our heroes. But then again, it leaves the whole saga open for a sequel. Oy! Not sure we need another vampire series in our midst.
The acting is a strong point and you can sense the fun this striking cast must be having here – over-the-top and deliriously campy. Hoss is queen of her vampires; in real life she’s a veteran stage actress with some pretty hefty credits – she’s member of the renowned Deutsches Theater in Berlin, a company that’s been seen from time to time in the U.S. She’s won the Silver Bear for acting at the Berlin Film Festival and the German Film Award.
An offbeat, edgier Sharon Stone, she carries off the role of Louise with great nerve. Yet unfortunately we discover very little about this character in the course – who was she in life? How did she become a vampire – who bit her and where is that vampire now? Was she a 17th century courtesan and lesbian? Oh yes, there’s a lesbian angle here, pushed in a rather forceful way early on, but never goes hard core, nor is it treated as anything unusual, so that’s fresh and feels like the one sophisticated element in the storyline.
My biggest question, if a woman rather than a man directed this, how would this all have been fleshed out further? You know… one might those sorts of things. In fact, there are so many questions left unanswered that perhaps this is the most compelling reason the film stays with you. Here’s a film that begins with high energy, great promise and never quite pays off.
The younger, equally talented cast members have almost all worked with Gansel previously – see IFC’s THE WAVE (also available now On Demand).
One note: see the original version in German with subtitles if you can. The English-dubbed version is clunky and flat and somehow “sucks away” the allure that makes this all-worth watching.
- Cynthia Kane
Cynthia Kane reviews documentaries for On Demand Weekly. She is a writer and Sr Programming Manager for [ ITVS], overseeing the International Initiative for funding in their SF office. Prior she’s had many incarnations from actor to writer to producer. She co-created DOCday on Sundance Channel.
Look for WE ARE THE NIGHT (IFC MIDNIGHT) under your cable system's On Demand section.
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