Friday, July 08, 2011

We are the Night – Review

Director: Dennis Gansel

Release date: 2010

Contains spoilers

We are the Night is a German vampire movie and it has, I’ll say at the outset, loads of style. More style, perhaps, than story but we’ll get to that as we explore the film.

It begins with still scenes each containing certain women, the scenes going back in time. These then are our primary vampires and, in fact, all the vampires in film are female and there is a reason why that is so.

The film proper starts with a plane, the pilot’s hand just in shot but we can tell that he is dead. As the camera pulls through the plane all the passengers are dead. Something struck me here and it isn’t, specifically, a criticism of this film as other films have done the same, but you have a group of passengers in a plane (or, in the case of Being Human, a train) and they have been killed by vampires. Aside from the blood (and one member of cabin crew on the floor) the people are sat in their seats as though life has been rudely interrupted without much of a fight. Surely there would have been panic, fighting back and the leaving of chairs… just a thought.

exiting the plane
The three vampires are Louise (Nina Hoss), Charlotte (Jennifer Ulrich) and Nora (Anna Fischer), later we hear that Louise turned the other two. The plane is on auto pilot – given that the pilot is dead. Charlotte is given a task, she begrudges it, she wants to finish her book. Louise finds a stewardess alive, checks her eyes and then breaks her neck – the others know that the eyes were not right. They open the cabin door and jump – sans parachutes – leaving the plane to crash.

Lena and Tom
Out on the streets and Lena (Karoline Herfurth) is a tomboy looking waif in a hoody. A man uses a cash point and, as he moves on, she crosses the road, takes the hidden camera and picks the man’s pocket – getting his wallet. She is walking away when the police appear and arrest him, but she runs anyway. One of the police – Tom (Max Riemelt) – chases her through the streets and shops. She manages to steal a dress during the pursuit and tries to hide in plain sight, on a bridge, as a girl. Tom stops and speaks to her and notices the cuts she has on her hands from barbed wire that they both fell foul to. She hits him and jumps to a passing boat – his reaction is to laugh.

No reflection
That night, having discovered that her mother is sleeping with her probation officer, Lena wanders the streets. She stumbles upon an underground club, gets in (as Louise watches through a security camera and likes her eyes) and is approached by the woman. They dance, Lena steals from her but Louise doesn’t mind. Lena goes to the bathroom and Louise approaches from behind, casting no reflection.

reflected bite
She bites the girl – we see this in the reflection, the bite marks inflamed like they are the entry point of a virulent disease and then there is a flash of light as something throws Louise off. She crashes through the stalls and seems awed and ecstatic as the young girl runs from the club. What happened? Presumably this is part of the turning process, that the vampirism choses the victims who will turn (or even they chose themselves) but it isn’t explained.

Lena has a rough night’s sleep, veins begin to turn black under the surface of her skin. When she awakens the sunlight burns her and she ends up doing the raw meat thing that we have seen in many a vampire movie. She goes back to Louise that night, the club room empty of patrons, and is greeted by the three vampires. She cannot except what she is and will not drink offered blood and so is taken to a pimp and left with him, for her own good it is suggested. He is going to beat and rape her and she reacts attacking him as the other three make short work of the other gangsters in the building (bar one who escapes).

Nora and Charlotte
The film then follows Lena, her struggle to accept what she has become, her path that crosses with Tom and the feelings she develops for him and Louise’s jealousy. The vampires themselves are both hedonistic and criminal. We get the sense that Charlotte wants to die and herein lies the problem with the film. It does little new, but does it with style; however it is more a character driven piece than story driven and yet somehow fails to build the characters in depth. There is style over the lack of substance and, for instance, the character Nora is fantastic only for the acting skills of Anna Fischer and not for anything within the story as such, as the narrative sketches thin characters at best.

hair growing and losing dye
Lore wise Lena bathes, after drinking blood, and during her bath her hair grows out, it loses its dye and a tattoo on her belly washes away. The vampirism, it seems, takes them to a state they should naturally be in. They heal with alarming speed, we see Charlotte poke the pupil of an eye with a cigarette and blink revealing it to have healed again. They have funky night vision.

playing chiken with the dawn
They stand and face the dawn each morning, like a game of chicken – indeed we see them play chicken in their sports cars also. However Charlotte lingers longer and has to be called in. We do discover that her now elderly daughter is dying in a nursing home and her motivation all seems to be around frustrated motherhood but it isn’t expanded on in enough depth. Too much sun and they die.

Wall Walking
They can walk on walls and cling to ceilings, they are fast and strong. We hear there are 40 vampires in Europe, 100 worldwide and they are all female. The males are described as stupid and many got themselves killed, the rest were killed by the females and they will no longer turn a man. I found that strident feminist streak fascinating but they didn’t do much with it.

in the sun
All in all the style of this film carries it, it was a great watch but could have been much, much more. I challenge anyone to watch the film and not find Nora one of the classic vampire characters and that, as I mentioned earlier, is entirely down to the performance.

At the time of review the film is awaiting a US release but it can be found on German DVD. It is not subtitled in that format but there are fan-subs available on the net. 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

find We Are The Night on Amazon


Anonymous said...

I watched a jarringly dubbed version on iTunes. (Why no subs, iTunes?)

I pretty much agree with you. Its energy and glamor carried it a long way, aided by lots of great visual moments. Nora was easily my favorite. But it definitely had a third act problem.

Despite its problems, still a very good film.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Halek, I can't understand why iTunes would carry a dubbed version (or just a dubbed version) either?!?

Carol Kewley said...

Well, I've just finished watching this and I thought it was really good. I was actually quite touched by the vampire saying goodbye to her 95 yo daughter and the overall themes of love and loss.

btw, watch the subbed version if you can find it.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Carol, absolutely, always choose subbed :)