Monday, March 28, 2016

Therapy for a Vampire – review

Director: David Rühm

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

Therapy for a Vampire, also known as Der Vampir auf der Couch, is an Austrian/Swiss production and is a comedy. We have been blessed over the last few years with some truly funny vampire comedies from various parts of the globe be it Belgium’s Vampires (2010), the American Vamperifica and the New Zealand What we Do in the Shadows , giving this a high bar to leap.

Of course comedy is – as I always say – a very subjective thing but I was lucky enough to get to view a screener of this and, you know what, it certainly didn’t disappoint. It also, quiet marvellously, indulged in a little used piece of lore and that is something we will get to shortly.

the sets are lovely
The year is 1932 and the camera guides us through a graveyard towards a mansion that is, allegedly, to let. The scenery and photography are gloriously Gothic and set the standard for the entire film. A thief, replete with eye mask, starts going through possessions piled outside the house, unaware of the figure looking down from above. As he gazes in the mirror a woman’s hand touches his shoulder – of course he cannot see her in the mirror. He turns around and, off camera, is gutted. We see the gore hit the mirror and it is fantastic, visceral and a practical effect rather than cgi.

Dominic Oley as Viktor
The painter Viktor (Dominic Oley) is putting the finishing touches to the portrait of his girlfriend Lucy (Cornelia Ivancan). Lucy has dark hair tied up and wears trousers. He tries to hide the finished painting but she sees it and he has painted her blonde, her hair loose and wearing a dress. Apparently this is not the first time he has painted her more as his fantasy of what he believes she should be, rather than who she is.

Tobias Moretti as the Graf
Viktor is working for Sigmund Freud (Karl Fischer), making sketches of dreams that the psychiatrist relates to him. He tries to pass the portrait off as a gift to Freud but the doctor is aware of exactly what occurred when Lucy saw the picture. After he leaves Freud is visited by Graf Geza von Közsnöm (Tobias Moretti). The Graf had donated monies that saved the Doctors publishing endeavour but has come to Freud as he is feeling his years and has lost his thirst for life. He knocks some pins over at one point and quickly picks them up whilst counting them – the vampire’s obsessional need to count is part of the lore of this film.

Cornelia Ivancan as Lucy
Eventually he sees the portrait of Lucy and she is the double of Nadila, the one who turned him and who was killed centuries before by dervishes. She promised him she would return reincarnated and he could awaken the memory of that past life if he bites her new incarnation and drinks her blood on the first full moon after meeting her (not before or after). It also has to be done with her consent and of her own free will. Lucy, in the meanwhile, has had her hair done like the portrait in order that she might turn Viktor’s obsession round on him. The underpinning theme of being true to oneself cuts through the film at various levels.

Jeanette Hain as Elsa
The Graf has a problem, however, in the form of his wife, Elsa (Jeanette Hain, the Countess). Any feelings he had for her seem dead and he seems especially tired of her obsession with her looks – distraught that she cannot see herself in the mirror and dead long enough that the memory of her own face has faded. The solution seems to be to distract both Elsa and Viktor by having him paint her portrait and it is in this that the little used piece of lore is brought in.

the brush refuses the canvas
In his notes for Dracula, Bram Stoker wrote, “Painters cannot paint him – their likeness always like someone else”. This was a proposed aspect of the novel along with not being able to be photographed that he, eventually, did not use. He did use the idea that vampires would cast no reflection, however. The photography trope does come up quiet regularly but not the painting trope. In this David Rühm does use the trope but actually goes a step further and has the painter actually unable to paint her at all, with the bristles of the brush turning away from the canvas as if pushed by an invisible force. Absolutely marvellous.

considering divorce
Other lore we get is the fact that the vampires can leap great distances, they can shapeshift (Elsa prefers to transform into a wolf and Geza into a bat), they hide from the sun – though how damaging it would be we do not really know, a stake through the heart will kill and alcohol in blood will get them drunk. They are able to hypnotise and this proves to be more of a hindrance than a help in the run of the film and the obsession with counting is used as a plot device. A bite will turn – but not the bite of a newly turned vampire, which has side effects but doesn’t turn the victim.

a victim
The film is a joy to look at, it has a beautiful style of photography and the sets are absolutely perfect. The cast are all excellent, for the main playing the roles straight and allowing the comedy to emerge from wittily written dialogue, the situations and some degree of physical humour. There are flashes of gore that are visceral and yet almost tasteful, building into the aesthetic. All in all this is one for all genre fans. 8 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


kirsi mannonen said...

I just saw trailer. I need to find this film, it looks great Gothic fun.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

It is Kirsi, when you've seen it let us know what you think :)