Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Akai – review

Director: Carlos G Gananian

Release date: 2006

Contains spoilers

Akai was a Brazilian short that was most definitely a flick with a heavily artistic bent, indeed it demands much of the viewer despite its low level of dialogue.

In some respects, as I watched it, I was reminded of Bill Mousoulis’ wonderful A Nocturne: Night of the Vampire and not just because of the vague physical similarity between Gustavo Arantes as the vampire in this and Alex Spears in A Nocturne. There was a feel I picked up on, but I’ll get to that soon.

Gustavo Arantes as the Vampire
The film starts with a house, blood is slick over the floor and a vampire feeds from the body of a prostitute (Roberta Youssef). We discover that her name was Sofia when the vampire labels a jar of her blood. We see him later, curled naked in an empty bath, the shower head drips above him.

The vampire has a table full of cuttings and cuts out escort advertisements from the paper. He sticks certain ones to his wall. The TV seems only to play static and he keeps a box in the fridge that is clearly important to him. He picks the telephone receiver and dials an escort regarding her advertisement.

strangeling his prey
The prostitute arrives and she moves to the bedroom. It wasn’t clear the first time I watched this, as we only glimpse the first girl, but she was also played by Roberta Youssef. He sits above her and his at first gentle hands grab her throat. He throttles her, but there is little in the way of struggle and she quickly dies. Then he bites her.

When she first came to the door I felt that the vampire carried an air of disdain and it was this that reminded me of A Nocturne. It was as though he was the Übermensch, above the world and disdainful of it. It was not until the next scene that I realised that, whilst the vampire might appear, and even aspire, to be above the mundane world, albeit in a languid way, he was not.

We hear the sounds of waves upon the shore, almost as though they are just beyond a door. We see him in the bath and the door opens; the bloodied legs of a woman approach, a bloodied arm reaches out. He awakens and she vanishes. He is not Übermensch, rather he is haunted by his victims, he is not aloof, he is terrified.

We hear the screams of his victims coming through the static of a TV that switches itself on and won’t switch off. Bizarrely the only time he really sees his victims as individuals is after their death. He writes their names on blood jars, he hears a multitude screaming through the static and yet when he brings them into his home they are all the same girl. This is also reminiscent of A Nocturne, but this time the cannibal character Seers who celebrates his love of one girl through the consumption of other girls.

fangs exposed
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that A Nocturne owes a debt to Akai but that they are almost accidental companion pieces on certain levels. There is a certain level of the Jean Rollin also in the aspect of the sea and the redemption or possibly simply the escape it represents. The film gives a nod to Dracula in that the front page of a newspaper shows a masted ship and the headline names it Demeter - a headline that is out of time and strangely ignored as the vampire turns to the classifieds, almost out of habit, treating them like a macabre buffet menu.

This is a dark and complex piece, virtually without dialogue the soundtrack offers a rich texture to proceedings. The acting was fine as far as it went but it felt to me that the actors were more tools used by the director within the canvas of the piece. 7.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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