Monday, April 02, 2007

Immortality – review


Directed by: Po-Chih Leong

Release Date: 1998

Contains spoilers

I am reviewing this movie under its US release name, ‘Immortality’, as that is the DVD edition I have. However I much prefer its UK title ‘The Wisdom of Crocodiles’ as it is an enigmatic title the source of which is a dialogue thread in the movie about the reptilian part of the brain.

The film starts with a narration by main character Steven Grlscz (Jude Law) about falling from a tree when a child. The camera lingers upon a tree and, as it raises upwards we see a car lodged in it. The emergency services arrive as does Steven. As things progress we discover the car belongs to his fiancée Sarah and it is deemed that she lost control at high speed and, careering of the road, ended up in the tree. She was killed instantly. We see Steven write the word despair in a journal which is labelled with her name.

Kerry Fox as MariaSteven is in an underground station when he sees a woman, we later discover to be called Maria (Kerry Fox). It is clear to both us as viewer and Steven that she intends to commit suicide by throwing herself before an oncoming tube train. Steven saves her.

He sees Maria at a book market and approaches her. He asks how she is but she is cold towards him. He leaves her his card. She eventually rings him and we see, in quick sequence, the relationship blossom.

Steven attacksWe then get a scene in which he plays a game with he in which his shadow seems to stretch and, though he is sat across the room from her, he is able to come close to her. He puts a ring upon her finger and they go to bed. His hand clasps across her mouth and he bites her neck and feeds. The scene of feeding is protracted, which I liked as it was not a quick bite and die scene indeed it makes it clear that he feeds fully. He tidies the body up and then we see him on his bed, it almost appears that he is asleep when he starts in pain and coughs up something much like a crystal needle. He puts this in a box, under Maria’s name, and writes in her journal disappointment.

Dispossing of MariaHe disposes of Maria’s body in an estuary, trusting the tides to take it away and meets a new woman named Anne (Elina Löwensohn). As he seduces her and manipulates her emotions we discover that (due to the use of illegal nets) a Spanish fishing boat has dredged up Maria’s body. Though Steven goes to the police as a concerned (ex) boyfriend the police officers, Inspector Healey (Timothy Spall) and Sergeant Roche (Jack Davenport), come to believe that Steven is their chief suspect.

I do not want to go into the story any further. This is a character driven drama and to reveal anymore would do the film a disservice. What is really interesting is the way vampirism is handled.

During the feedSteven is alive rather than undead, a genetic anomaly. We have none of the standard vampire motifs, other then the need to feed in order that he remains alive. Interestingly, though he needs blood it is because blood holds the emotions of the individual. It is actually the love contained in the blood that he feeds on. The crystal shards he regurgitates painfully are the negative emotions of the individuals.

When he doesn’t feed he becomes ill, his body devouring itself from the inside. He believes that if he could devour pure love, with no negative aspects, he will be cured – though he admits it is only a belief. When hungering he loses the ability to heal himself, even in a standard mortal sense, this is illustrated with a small cut he gets in his finger that refuses to clot or heal. Jude Law as StevenAs the hunger increases we see him bleed spontaneously from his ear and his breath sours to smell like pear drops – due to the acetone that is produced as his body devours itself.

Steven has a hidden inner room in his apartment where he keeps his records and it is clear that he has devoured many women in the past.

Elina Löwensohn as AnneI mentioned that this is character driven and the cast are all excellent. The interaction between Steven and Healey is exceptionally well done. Löwensohn was no stranger to the genre having starred in genre movie Nadja (1994). The dialogue is brilliant, Steven is a master manipulator and the discourse he has with Healey about the greyness of good and evil is very well written indeed.

I have read that some people find the film slow. I believe, as this is a drama, that such an assertion is missing the point. This is not a horror movie, nor is it an action movie. What some might call slow is character and story development. There is little in the way of action, as this is not an action movie. However there are some scenes of a more action bent occasionally.

The unusual premise of vampirism is a draw, when it comes to scoring this, as is the excellent acting, dialogue and characterisation. A well deserved 8 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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