Film

'We Are the Night': The Female Vampire Quartet

Vampiro-lesbo-culture is shown to be titillating yet untenable in this male made movie.


We Are the Night

Director: Dennis Gansel
Cast: Nina Hoss, Karoline Herfurth
Distributor: MPI Home Video
Year: 2010
USDVD release date: 2011-09-20

With nods to Daughters of Darkness (1971) and The Hunger (1983), plus a dash of Near Dark (1987), this German production is a sleek, frustrated addition to the lesbian vampire mythos.

A literally over-the-top sequence set aboard an airplane establishes the casual cruelty of a trio of vampiresses. Louise (Nina Hoss), the elegant, blonde queen bee, hails from the 18th Century. The sullen, bookish Charlotte (Jennifer Ulrich) was a ‘20s actress with a role in Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922), which she watches while playing Klaus Nomi's "Cold Song". The garish Nora (Anna Fischer), who looks like an extra from Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), would be in her 30s, but she's a perpetually immature teenager with no impulse control.

In an intriguing, if unexplained, addition to mythology: only certain people can be turned into vampires. You recognize them by something in their eyes, and their blood packs a wallop that can knock the biter across the room. The bored and lonely Louise, who turned Charlotte and Nora for sexual company, but now keeps them only as retinue, turns her eye on scruffy street-rat Lena (Karoline Herfurth), who abruptly blossoms after a rebirth in the bathtub. She loses her tattoo and her hair lengthens. She's scared, yet dazzled, by a life of privilege, in which running a rave nightclub provides cash to live in luxury hotels and drive Italian sports cars between orgies.

Louise explains that there are 40 female vampires in Europe, with a total of 100 in the world. They got rid of the men, who were loud, greedy, and stupid. This gynocracy commits such careless acts that it's a wonder they last 30 days, and the trajectory of the story (written and directed by men) apparently requires that vampiro-lesbo-culture prove untenable, evil, suicidal, and something to drive Lena into the arms of a handsome cop (Max Riemelt).

An instructive comparison can be made with woman-scripted items like Byzantium (2012), Kiss of the Damned (2012), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), and yes, Twilight (2008), all of which offer subtler and arguably more affirmative ruminations on "girl power". To cut director Dennis Gansel and writer Jan Berger some slack, their 2010 film predates all except the last of those, and they deliberately rewrote Gansel's original vampire romance in order to make it different from that pervasive hit.

Requiring nearly supernatural determination, it would appear almost impossible to make a truly awful lesbian vampire movie, so We Are the Night isn’t that bad a film. Gansel directs with admirable pace and an eye to glossy and bloody thrills amid Berlin locales. Torsten Breuer's handheld photography is hectic and claustrophobic, slowing down and opening up only in elegant moments to distinguish the vampiric high life from the world of the rest of us schlubs. Above all, the four excellent actresses give the film its charge and dazzle with their sense that they've seen, lived through, and been bored by a lot more than most of us, and their fearless decadent style successfully conveys something of a Goodfellas (1990) allure.

The DVD defaults to German with English subtitles, although you can choose an English dub if you wish for a hollow, distracting ambience where the lips don't match. There's a trailer, interviews, and a brief behind-the-scenes extra that doesn’t add up to much.

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