Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bats in the Belly – review

Director: Thomas Gerber

Release date: 2004

Contains spoilers

Bats in the Belly is a short Swiss film. It has a nice layer of comedy but is also rather cute in its portrayal of vampiric coming-of-age.

a little taste
It begins with an ambulance speeding to hospital. The patient has a bad stomach injury and, despite the encouraging words from paramedic Viktor (Philipp Siegel), the man has lost a lot of blood. In desperation Viktor grabs a tool kit and produces a piece of plastic hose – almost a giant straw! A bump in the road causes him to plunge it into the man’s wound, blood splashes his face and he wipes it with his fingers and then tastes it…

Neck Fetish
When the ambulance arrives at the hospital we see that Viktor has constructed a means of saving the man’s life, taping the hose into the bleeding wound so that the blood goes into it and clamping the end to keep it inside, the man has stopped losing blood. When young doctor Sophia (Sandra Schlegel) touches it the clamp flies off and blood splatters Viktor’s face. As the hospital staff rush the man in she wipes away some blood from Viktor and his focus hones into her neck and the veins. He is left on his own and his fangs pop out (with a creaking sound). As he leaves he pockets a blood pack.

Philipp Siegel as Viktor
The film plays with many vampire conventions. As he enters his apartment the candles that line the walls burst into flame and a taxidermy chicken clucks. For some reason he has lots of taxidermy chickens (amongst other birds and animals) but we should remember that Jess Franco tied the vampire and taxidermy together in the psychedelic scene he placed in Count Dracula. He rips a picture of Sophia’s face from a staff book and places it on a bird’s beak. The subsequent appearance of fangs and the drinking of blood gives us an erectile and masturbatory simile.

Sandra Schlegel as Sophia
That continues when he next meets Sophia, with him running away after his fangs embarrassingly spring forth. When he gets home it is daylight and he catches his hair in an errant shaft of sunlight, causing it to set on fire – later we discover that spontaneously combusting only occurs if the vampire is in human form. He has received a phone call from a vampire elder who is checking that he is eating properly. When asked about fresh, female blood we discover that Viktor is 25 and has not yet bitten a girl – he is a bite virgin. His petulant reaction is very teen.

using shadows
When he next meets Sophia he seduces her with hand shadows, again this plays with the shadow convention introduced in vampire cinema through Nosferatu. The up-shot is that she asks him to call her. I found that the viewer, at this point, is less concerned with Sophia’s safety and more concerned with the question of whether Viktor is going to finally bite a girl, so personable had Siegel made his character. That, of course, will not be spoiled.

mobile crap bat
With a title of Bats in the Belly, you know that you will get some crap bats. Viktor has a taxidermy bat in his home, a bat appears on his phone when he is sending a text message and there is a moment of turning into bats. So, for the cbs aficionado there is plenty to see. The two leads are very good and they create a genuine chemistry. The comedy is charming. All in all this is a very satisfying little short.

7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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