Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Vampyrer – review

coverDirector: Peter Pontikis

Release date: 2008

Contains spoilers

There is something going on in Sweden, quite obviously, because suddenly the undead are rising. We had black comedy Frostbite and then the beautifully lyrical Let the Right One In. Now there is also Vampyrer, which is still rather limited in its availability, on DVD in Sweden, certainly, you can actually find it to view online under the title “Not like Others”.

This is perhaps best described as nihilism on screen and was absorbing when watched but ultimately frustrating. I will, as always, explain.

a flock of bikesWe begin with a view of bikes coming through an underpass. It is actually an eerily lovely shot for a film that is stark in its cam-type cinematography. The bikes swoop through the night time city, a car alarm sounds as they get too close to a parked vehicle. Two sisters walk the street, Vanja (Ruth Vega Fernandez) and Vera (Jenny Lampa). Vera asks Vanja who was on the phone, she says no-one.

Vera's disgustIn a club Vera dances whilst Vanja sits at a bar. The bikers enter and one (Peter Järn) approaches Vera. He is forceful but she is uninterested. Eventually she seems to agree, reluctantly, and goes to a toilet with him. He takes her into a cubical and we can see the disgust on her face as he manhandles her.

feedingShe removes a small knife from her pocket and opens the blade. She jabs it into an artery at the neck and fastens to his throat, sucking at the fountain of blood. We see her leave the toilet, she is cleaned up, but when she drinks some blood escapes her mouth into the glass. Vanja sees this and Vera says there is some left for her. Vanja opens the cubical but he is still alive and conscious and has a gun, a shot is fired and another biker (Jörgen Persson), in the club area, hears something over the music.

He goes into the toilet. The cubical door is shut and Vanja starts making passionate noises until he leaves. She collects Vera and they leave the club. The biker sees them leave and goes back to the toilet. His friend is dead and the gang leave looking for the girls who, for their part, have already entered the subway.

lost boys momentWhat we get now is a hunt through the, fairly deserted, city streets interspersed with flashbacks. We see that Vanja bought a phone, to Vera’s bemusement. We know that she overheard the conversation that Vanja had when she told someone that she had not told Vera yet. We see Vanja trying to eat food, and being sick. We see thefts of blood from the hospital, being pursued by a nurse. We see them crashing a party to opportunistically steal money and Vanja being caught and just leaving the money behind. It is clear that Vera believes Vanja suffers from bouts of depression but that Vanja is sick of the life they lead. The attendance at the club was Vera’s idea, Vanja simply wanted to go to a movie. There is a moment of happiness as they cling to a fence, screaming, as a train thunders by on the rails above. It is reminiscent of the scene from the Lost Boys, I think deliberately so.

in the cinemaWhilst all this occurs it becomes apparent that Vanja wants to change her life. She has to tell her sister that she has met a man, non-vampiric, and is leaving with him. She wants to pass for human, but Vera does not believe it is possible. Vanja was to meet him at the cinema but Vera’s selfishness, when they are there, causes them to run from the bikers again.

Vera is sociopathic perhapsWhat are they? Vampires, certainly. They do not eat food, only subsisting on blood. It seems they are natural, as it were, they talk about having a father and mother – that the mother was genetically predisposed to gaining weight – Vera overeats and worries about this. Yet we find very little else, other than the fact that Vera is somewhat psychotic. She not only kills the biker but also a taxi driver (David Dencik) who tries to get some personal attention when she can’t pay him – now I am not saying he was right to try and bullishly compel such attentions but she already had the knife out before things got too forceful. She certainly lives only in the moment – Vanja keeps all monies as Vera will spend any money she gets straight away. This is all about the individuals, however, and the lack of concrete creature lore was frustrating.

What I found even more frustrating was how these bikers (four of them in all) were able to track two girls through the city so easily. It seems to me that, having entered the subways and with Vera having travelled some distance by taxi, finding them would have been more of a problem. There is a moment where the girls hide out in a warehouse, the bikers riding past notice a glove left on barbed wire. I am sorry, why was that such a clue? How did they even spot it? It didn’t ring true.

Vanja wants out but Vera is always behind herYet the film, as I said, is a film about nihilism and it is Vera who represents that, she has no moral truth – she is willing to kill because she is offended by sexual advance as much as by a need to feed, without feeling any guilt over the death, and even then she overeats – she is a physical representation of existence being senseless, only living in the now. She represents all that depresses Vanja, who wants to escape that place and embrace a more traditional (human) lifestyle. Indeed, whilst clearly a separate character, she almost metaphorically embodies Vanja’s depression. That is the interesting aspect of the film and the two actresses lead us into that philosophical discussion with natural grace. It is just a shame that the narrative framework, around which it was explored, was undermined by using the most convenient route in plotting and that the lore was not opened up any more (or at all). 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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