We are the Night
It takes a lot to make a noticeably different vampire film these days. The genre has been seemingly mined to death through the inanity that is the Twilight series to the more visceral thrills offered in the HBO adaptation of Charlaine Harris’ work in True Blood. Maybe that’s why it fell to a foreigner to offer us something messy but thought-provoking. Director Dennis Gansel conceived of his story, We are the Night back in 1996 and let is gestate in his mind before finding willing financial backers. Apparently, vamps don’t inspire moneymen in Germany so when the film failed to launch in 2006, Gansel went off to direct his acclaimed film, The Wave, and that finally got him his money.
The director says his inspiration came from the 1872 novel Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and it shows. Louise (Nina Hoss) has been seeking the reincarnation of her one true love, thinking she has found her time and again in attractive young women she converts into vampire lovers. Spotting the punk-styled thief Lena (Karoline Herfurth) at a throbbing nightclub, Louise doesn’t hesitate to bring her over to the dark side and only then begins the seduction, which backfires when Lena rebuffs her advances. Louise gives in to her needs rather than slowly explain things to the terrified young woman.
As a result, we get some sense that the male vampires have been killed off by the women and that very few vampires remain active in the modern world. Louise, therefore, fronts a trio of vamps, the other two being women she incorrectly thought had been the reincarnation she sought. There’s the lustful Nora (Anna Fischer) and the smoldering Charlotte (Jennifer Ulrich) and the three have reveled in being vampires, giving in to their temptations without a second thought. They eat, dance, drink, fornicate, and drive real fast, sexy cars. All the while, Louise works on Lena, who rebuffs her attempts without a real sense of why.
Meantime, Lena has encountered a cute cop, Tom (Max Riemelt), just before her transformation and he is the only one she thinks she can turn to when it’s clear this is not a lifestyle she wants forever. Tom, though, is investigating cases that bring their worlds onto a collision course.
Shot in and around Berlin, the film is dark and gritty when it’s not being slick and seductive. The dialogue is sparse which is a shame since more character development would have been appreciated. There are some story logic flaws mixed in with some terrific character bits. Gansel can certainly evoke mood, creating an erotic vampire thriller without nudity or copious amounts of blood and gore.
This should be Louise and Lena’s story but instead, the emotional core of being a vampire is stolen by Charlotte, the one-time silent film star, who has the most emotionally powerful scene in the film.
As vampire films go, this one is way above average but far from perfect. It’s currently playing the festival circuit in America and IFC films has already made it available as a digital download. A DVD will be released later this year and it’s certainly worth a look.