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Review by Kate Wingfield
Rating: (3 out of 5)
Thursday, 10/20/2011, 7:30 PM
Feature presentation, $12 at West End Cinema
German with English subtitles
WHEN IT COMES to vampire angst, all discussions begin and end with Tony Scott’s The Hunger. Though hardly a perfect film, it’s still the gold standard for vampire melancholy (and couture). And in his big-budget We Are the Night, Dennis Gansel pays homage with his German-chic vampires and an eye for atmospherics.
But even as his Vampire Queen Louise, like Catherine Deneuve’s Miriam, finds but cannot keep her next lady-love, Gansel captures none of the subtlety of Miriam’s wooing of Susan Sarandon’s Sarah. And despite Louise’s penchant for creating female vampires, neither does the film explore her sexuality. Thus, anyone hoping for a new take on the concept of the lesbian vampire — or for that matter, the romantic vampire — will be disappointed. Indeed, the most affecting and ably-handled relationship here is the thoroughly human one between Lena, the urban-urchin Louisa wants, and the young policeman, Tom, who discovers Lena pick-pocketing and later connects her to a trail of vampiric homicides.
Still, taken as entertainment versus innovation, We Are the Night is a well-paced mini-thriller with a reasonably dark Euro-grit sensibility. Holding her own despite the more predictable moments, Karoline Herfurth’s Lena is a refreshing tomboy, as gorgeously compelling as any starlet despite Gansels’ admirable choice to avoid the usual soft-core depiction of such a heroine (indeed all the women here must be commended for keeping their own lips, if not their own teeth). She is never afraid to give us the face of human suffering. Its “ugliness” offers an authenticity that puts Hollywood to shame.
Exuding retired super-model splendor, Nina Hoss’ Louise channels more warm-hearted dominatrix than centuries-old vampire and there are but a few glimmers of pathos as she realizes that she cannot make Lena love her. As ebullient sidekick vampire Nora, Anna Fischer offers the film’s best darkly-comic moments while Jennifer Ulrich’s nicely inscrutable vampire Charlotte grows in dimension with the plot. Max Riemelt gives his Tom a distinctly human warmth and plenty of reason for Lena’s ambivalence towards what she has become.
This is no The Hunger, but for those in need, Night offers a fun, if slightly anemic, fix.