Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Eternal - review

Director: Wilhelm Lieberberg/Federico Sanchez

Release Date: 2004

Contains spoilers

Eternal begins with the legend, “the following story was inspired by true events.” By that the producers mean the historical antics of Erzsébet Báthory and not what happens within the film, which is, shall we say a little far fetched. It seems strange to say that in a review of a vampire movie, but the real world touches that might have drawn one in to this are sadly fantastical.

The film begins with a woman called Jessica (Sarah Manninen) – known in a chat-room as Wildcat - driving to a mansion in Montreal. The place is opulent, and one thing this film does do well is use beautiful scenery and locations. She is there to have a liaison with Elizabeth Kane (Caroline Neron) – a woman she has met on the internet and intends to have an illicit lesbian tryst with, behind her husband’s back. There is a little bit of wine drinking – note to self, if I am ever in the situation of meeting a stranger, who lives in a mansion, and toasts with the words, “To eternity,” run: it’s bound to be a vampire – a little touchy, feely and then Elizabeth slips on a silver finger sheath and pierces Jessica’s neck.

There follows a soupcon of blood drinking and then Elizabeth’s maid Irina (Victoria Sanchez) comes in and is told to prepare Elizabeth’s bath. First thing to note is, no fangs – that’s to be expected in a vampire movie based on the Báthory story – and the second thing is that Elizabeth is obviously Erzsébet, still going strong centuries on.

Unfortunately, Jessica’s husband was bad boy cop Ray Pope (Conrad Pla) and it is here that the film begins to unravel. When we first meet Pope he is having some bondage sex with a woman – who turns out later to be Nancy (Ilona Elkin), his partner’s wife – and during gets a call about his wife’s car being found. She’s been missing two or three days, but that doesn’t seem to matter up to that point. Pope, and all the other characters, are thoroughly disagreeable and so no sympathy is developed for any of the characters within the film. Pope quickly finds a connection between his wife and Elizabeth (a woman with no fingerprints it seems) and things begin to unravel in his life.

He is eventually framed for the murder of Nancy and the rape and murder of his young babysitter, his sperm being planted - in respect of the rape - as he had sex with Elizabeth. There is an interesting sub-plot with Irina having been promised initiation into Elizabeth’s lifestyle and murdering young boys with false, razor-sharp teeth, but it isn’t really developed and certainly reaches no form of conclusion. There is the indication that, for the vampire to maintain her youth, to kill is not enough and that the victim must be seduced and must be willing – an unwilling soul cannot be taken – which was a nice touch.

Anyhoo, Elizabeth takes off to Venice and somehow Pope follows her – remember he’s wanted in connection with his disappearing wife, the murder of another cop’s wife and the rape and murder of a minor (or was she, the detective’s who fish her out of the river seem to think so but I don’t know of many minors who can baby-sit during week days and fix cars). How he got out of Canada and all the way to Venice is a mystery, though at the end of the film there is a hint that perhaps he had, unknowingly, been helped by Interpol or perhaps it was the Vatican secret service!

A showdown is now, of course, inevitable. I will say that the ending was a little unusual, not what I might have expected. The only problem with it was that it opened the door for an Eternal 2, and I wouldn’t want to meet these characters again – then again I wouldn’t want to watch the ending of this film be glossed aside as so often happens between a film and its sequel.

My description of the film might seem glib, but I really struggled to enjoy this one. The situation never grabbed me and, as I said, I couldn’t have given a hoot about any of the characters. My mind actually wandered and I began to question, whilst Pope was in Venice, who was looking after his son – given the babysitter was dead.

It is a real shame, because the script did contain some good concepts and the locations and sets were, as I said at the head, quite sumptuous. Yet, I can only give this 3 out of 10; I’ve seen productions with no real locations and no budget that have grabbed me and held me – this didn’t and production design is nothing if the story and characters do not hold you. The reality of this problem comes up in the production notes found on Rotten Tomatoes:

Completing the adventure in locations was the final scene in the monastery. They scouted for a suitable location and the Abbazia San Pietro in Valle, Valneria was the one they wanted. The only one. The problem was that this was an operating monastery and the script for the scene to be shot had to be rewritten to suit the Vatican. A new script was produced, the Vatican approved, and the cast and crew were in and out in one day.

If you have so little script integrity that you will change it for a location, especially one so little used in the film, then your script has real problems. I don’t know the extent of the change, but I do know that they could have found other suitable locations, to me the script has to be more important than the location. Finally I should point out that there are strong sexual themes throughout the movie, as you would expect, but they weren’t particularly erotic - Franco has done much better with much less.

There is an official site here with a trailer.

The imdb page is here.


Unknown said...

I've seen the beginning of this on Youtube and loved that, exactly the style I prefer for my Lesbian Vampire action.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

unknown, to me the opening worked but the film that flowed from it didn't - but I'll be interested in your thoughts once you've watched the whole thing.