Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I like Bats – review

Director: Grzegorz Warchol

Release date: 1986

Contains spoilers

This 1986 Polish film, entitled Lubie Nietoperze domestically, is somewhat of an odd duck of a film. It comes across as an allegorical film as much as anything. We shall examine the allegory later.

It was filled with a rogue’s gallery of weird and wonderful characters and yet it just didn’t seem to gel together as a cohesive whole. Indeed the characters I mention were left frustratingly two-dimensional.

the portrait
It begins with a bat. Not a crap bat, I should add, but an actual bat. Then we cut to a little curio-shop, and specifically the flat above it. Izabela (Katarzyna Walter) is there with her aunt (Malgorzata Lorentowicz) and the conversation concerns a portrait. The aunt suggests that the fact it fell from the wall is a sign that the man in the portrait wants Izabela to marry. Izabela is dismissive and puts the portrait on a rocking chair. As she leaves the room, the chair rocks on its own causing the portrait to fall again, smashing the glass.

Edwin Petrykat as Marceli
A man enters the shop and goes up to see the Aunt. He sells practical jokes and is annoyingly gregarious in his humours. Later a man called Marceli (Edwin Petrykat) comes in with the news that there has been a murder of a woman, strangled by a belt and subjected to a sexual attack. He says that it is the seventh such an attack and suggests that he should walk Izabela home. The Aunt concurs but Izabela does not.

dead sex pest
In the next scene we see the sex offender and it is drawn in such a way that we believe he is after Izabela – this does not seem to be the case at this point. In the scenes with Izabela we see her feeding and handling bats. However the next night the man does grab Izabela, he seems to be strangling her as he tells her to kiss him but she responds, kissing him, switching their positions until she is on top. The scene fades and then we see him with bats on his face, which fly as she approaches the body. We see her placing his coat into a furnace.

the whore
A man, Professor Rudolph Jung (Marek Barbasiewicz), enters the store. Izabela has just completed making a tea service with a bat motif, which her Aunt dislikes, but he is fascinated by it. She seems drawn to him and offers to show him examples of her work at her home – he declines, he is only in town a day – but he does buy the service. We then see him eating in a bar when a drunken Marceli pours his heart out. Next a prostitute approached Jung, but he rejects her – intimating he is gay.

Katarzyna Walter as Izabela
The prostitute sits next to Marceli but picks up another man – a traveling salesman. She goes off with him and he drives her into the country. She kisses him and then bites him. When she leaves the vehicle she pushes it, it goes over a crest of a hill and, out of our view, explodes. She removes a wig and we realise she is Izabela. That night Marceli breaks in and tries to rape her but stops when she screams. She goes to his home, dressed as the prostitute, reveals herself and attacks him.

Izabela takes herself to Jung’s private hospital, telling him that she is a vampire and needs treatment. He offers treatment but spurns her advances and that is about as far as I want to go.

dead gardener
So, I said it was allegorical and it is. The vampirism seems to be an allegory for sexual frustration tied into a need for love. Indeed, whilst she has told Jung she is a vampire, she tells anyone else who asks why she is in the hospital that she is a nymphomaniac. All the men we see her attack are sexual predators and she devours them. I have mentioned three of them – there is also an attack on a gardener at the hospital, who prior to the attack has caused the nurses to neglect their duties whilst they go to have sex with him, who reacts to an advance from Izabela prior to the attack.

a no-show on the x-ray machine
In Jung she finds a man with whom she falls in love but he rejects her advances, at first. During the film we see that she has no reflection, indeed she does not even show up on an x-ray machine, but as soon as Izabela and Jung consummate their love she gains a reflection (and a bat – this time a crap one – kills itself by smashing through a window, symbolising the death of her vampirism). This casts a darker spin on the coda, where we see Izabela and Jung's young daughter and the body of a gardener who approached her – the child has fangs.

vampire pens
The problem with this interpretation of the film is that it is a male-dominated view. She is an object of desire for the sex offender and Marceli – something to be taken and owned. She is treated like a whore by the salesman and the gardener takes advantage of her alleged nymphomania. The one she loves almost puts her in a cage in an area that stores and experiments on vampires (on a beach). The owner of the ‘facility’ states that female vampires are unusual and Jung does break her out of the cage, fighting for her, but ultimately her relationship with Jung is one where she needs him (and his love) to lift her curse.

There is an indication that the aunt is/was also a vampire. She is seen levitating at one point and tells Izabela that she knows a good dentist (inferring a removal of the fangs). Speaking of fangs – we only see them towards the end of the film. We can also say that other than a lack of reflection (a symbol of not being whole as a vampire) there are no other overtly vampiric traits. Katarzyna Walter carries the film with aloof aplomb, but there aren’t any other outstanding performances. The film felt disjointed and the secondary characters demanded more depth.

The film is fairly surreal and is interesting, if nothing else. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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