Monday, August 18, 2008

Vamp or Not? Brand upon the Brain!


This was a 2006 black and white and almost silent movie, directed by Guy Maddin – whose work we previously looked at when I reviewed Dracula: Pages from a Virgins Diary. I say almost silent as there is a narration to the piece. For this write up I listened to the narration by Isabella Rossellini. Watching this on screen is perhaps a lessening of the experience that Maddin created in ‘live performances’ where, I believe, narrators and musicians performed live to the film.

Gretchen Krich as MotherThe film is subtitled “A Remembrance in Twelve Chapters” and sees Guy Maddin (played older by Erik Steffen Maahs) return to the island he grew up on, after a 30 year absence. He has been summoned by a letter from his mother (Gretchen Krich) that suggests that she is dying and asks him, as a last request from her, to paint the lighthouse.

Sullivan Brown as GuyHe remembers the past, his childhood (played as a child by Sullivan Brown) when the island was an orphanage run by his mother. Also living on the island were his sister, Sis (Maya Lawson) and his scientist father (Todd Moore). One of the orphans, Neddie (Kellan Larson), was his best friend. His father had invented the aerophone – which had become the primary communication device on the island. It transmitted speech by using emotion to carry the words.

Guy falls for WendyInto the mix comes the lightbulb kids Chance and Wendy Hale (both played by Katherine E Scharhon). The lightbulb kids are, I guess, a Nancy Drew or Secret Seven type brother and sister team. At first Wendy comes to the island. She is investigating the island as there have been re-housed orphans with mysterious holes in the back of their heads. Guy is smitten by the girl detective.

Wendy becomes ChanceWendy seems quite taken by Sis and decides that Chance would have more opportunity in the investigation. She therefore disguises herself as Chance, claiming Wendy had to leave. We get a convoluted courtship of Sis by Chance and the gender confusion felt by Guy as he becomes smitten with Chance also. We are, of course, more interested on this page by the vampiric elements and this revolves around Sis.

Sis with the aerophoneWhenever Sis misbehaves, in her mothers eyes, mother sounds a horn. Pre-programmed (presumably hypnotically) Sis walks trance like to her father. We know that she has the mysterious holes in the back of her head. Eventually Chance has Guy spy on what happens.

harvest of nectarFather uses his ring to extract something from the back of the head – from the brain. We have seen the use of a ring to extract brain juices before in the movie the Leech Woman. In this case the juice is called nectar and the extraction, as father does it, seems to be non-fatal.

nectarWhat is it used for? Father uses it to make mother younger (played younger by Cathleen O’Malley). Her aim is to be made pre-pubescent by the nectar – indeed she has acquired a cot should it be able to make her an infant again. The problem is that the effects are not permanent. Rage can reverse the effects. I found this idea really interesting.

desperate for nectarWhen father becomes incapable of extracting the nectar, mother becomes desperate. Her reaction is that of the addicted, though whether it is the nectar or the effect of the nectar that she is addicted to we do not know. She attacks Neddie, biting into him and clearly suckling at the blood as she tries to extract nectar from him.

harvest woundsIs this vamp? There is much going on in this film, however concentrating on the nectar storyline only and taking it literally rather than symbolically, for the sake of this write up, I would have to say this is Vamp. We have the extraction of a precious fluid (in a way similar to another genre movie), that fluid brings a rejuvenation to the imbiber. The effects are not permanent and there is clearly some blood taking when the nectar is not readily available. It also adds an addiction element to the plot line.

vampire aspects aboundAn unusual film, for sure, and not to everyone’s taste, that much I can tell you. I actually did enjoy this but found that it was perhaps a little overlong and dragged towards the end segment. This was when the narration levels had fallen – perhaps missing Ms Rossellini’s voice was part of it. Perhaps it was also that the film was designed to be experienced in a different way. All that said it most definitely deserves a place on vampire filmographies.

The imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

Slightly Off Topic but have you seen Killer X (2004) with David Carradine as a less than mentally stable FBI agent convinced that he is a vampire hunter?

leezee52 said...

Awesome movie. I went to the Toronto Film Festival for it's premiere! And also when it came to Seattle and Guy Maddin narrated. Great movie!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Leezee 52 - I'm rather jealous, I wish I had the opportunity to see it as it was meant to be seen.

Ordovicius, no I haven't (and don't apologise for going off topic, lol) but now you've mentioned it I'll keep my eye out for it.