Saturday, March 22, 2008

Tremendo Amanecer – review

Director: Gustavo Postiglione

Release date: 2004

Contains spoilers

When this Argentinean film arrived something worried me. It was the proclamation on the cover's blurb that the film had received 8.5 out of 10 on imdb. Dangerous, as this is a moving feast, dangerous also as the score is only really representative the more people vote. At time of review this had dropped to 7.4 and has only received 10 votes.

Be that as it may it is an interesting piece, if a little slow. Unfortunately the disc seemed to not want to play in my PC and so I watched it on the home player. I beg your indulgence, therefore, with the illustrative screenshots as they were googled, gathered from various web pages and, as this is an obscure little title, were few and far between.

The film is centred mainly on the vampire Dante (Coki Debernardi). One interesting technique used by the director was to film all of Dante’s back history scenes – be they memory or dreams – as silent movies, in black and white with dialogue cards. This works rather well.

Dante is a vampire but an unusual one. Whilst he has a tremendous aversion to sunlight (and as a result he is obsessed with video of the city in daylight), is 104 years old and must feed on blood, all the other normal trappings of the vampire do not plague him. He is left cold by the cross, garlic has no effect upon him and he has no fangs – using a knife to open veins. This is explained to us through what Dante says to his analyst, through visual means and via Homero (Gabriel Goity).

Homero is a Vatican (I assume) agent sent to help out with a spate of vampire attacks in the city. Whilst we do see Dante kill a drug dealer the other two murders being investigated are not conclusively his kills. Homero is teamed with a local cop, Ramírez (Gustavo Guirado), and explains much of his theories to the cop. Vampires, he tells us, are rooted in legends, such as the legend of Lilith and the legend of Cain. They are the imperfect creation of a perfect God; hence the church is cleaning up its own mess.

Dante is different. He once worked for the same organisation as Homero but his love, Julia (Jazmín Stuart) died. In order to see her again Dante used an occult ritual, including a human sacrifice. This led to his vampirism.

As for Ramírez he is a dirty cop, he pimps his own girlfriend and extorts money from other prostitutes as well as handling drugs. He does not seem to have a redeeming feature.

Of course, the reincarnation of Julia comes into the frame and I was impressed when, in a scene where Dante explains who he is to his reborn love, Postiglione reverts to a silent movie technique but keeps the shot in colour. It juxtaposed quite well.

The problem with the film lies in how slow it is. The film is only 80 minutes long but feels longer. Perhaps this is because of character studies within the film but the pacing didn’t seem perfect. That said it is still very watchable. Budget (or lack of it) also had a negative impact. The movie seemed like it was recorded on video and probably called for actual film to be used.

Some of the lighting techniques work a treat, especially the strobe when Dante is feeding (benignly) from prostitutes in a tunnel. The soundtrack is marvelous. There are some excellent minimalist themes running through the film, and the silent sections tend to be accompanied by “Summertime”. Dante owns a bar and sings there, leading to an excellent version of the cure’s “Without You”. I also noted the inclusion of Sting’s “Moon Over Bourbon Street”, which itself was inspired by Interview with the Vampire. Debernardi is excellent as Dante, coming across as thoroughly haunted without falling into the trap of being the too angst-ridden vampire.

An unusual film, more thoughtful and arthouse than horror, this is a fascinating (slightly flawed) look into South American filmmaking. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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