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June 30, 2013

Wir sind die Nacht

by Franz Patrick


Wir sind die Nacht (2010)
★★★ / ★★★★

Louise (Nina Hoss), Charlotte (Jennifer Ulrich), and Nora (Anna Fischer) are a trio of vampires that have flourished in the last one hundred years. When Louise, a lesbian, spots Lena (Karoline Herfurth) in an underground club, she stalks her prey to the restroom and bites the woman’s neck for a second or two. When Lena wakes up the next morning, she is in terrible pain. When sunlight touches her skin, there is a burning sensation. When she looks in the mirror, her reflection is not there.

“Wir sind die Nacht,” based on the screenplay by Jan Berger and Dennis Gansel, plays, at least initially, like a commercial that aims to sell vampirism as a glamorous lifestyle. And it is convincing. The women of the night spend most of their time partying because never get tired, doing drugs because they can never be addicted, and buying designer clothes and posh cars because money is of no consequence. They are immortal which means that violence holds no weight in their existence. A bullet piercing their skull is like being tickled, only to recover completely in under a minute.

But despite the perks of being a vampire and forever beautiful, the girls each has a unique personality and something tragic about her. Through an assured storytelling and brisk pace, understanding Louise’s desperate search for a partner who will love her back, Charlotte’s depression from losing her family, and Nora using her ebullience to mask her dormant frustrations do not feel formulaic. Even though they are vampires and have killed people, sometimes for fun, it is difficult to consider them as pure evil.

Their actions are highly influenced by their natures: when they smell blood, they must come forth and feed–like dogs that cannot help but wag their tails when their master is around. And then there is Lena, in a state of critical transition. When we meet her, she is a petty criminal, ragged in appearance, with jet-black dyed hair, piercings, and tattoos. In a way, the character reflects a bit of ourselves when we are seduced with imaginary, hedonistic freedom in the form of thumping house music, intoxicated confidence, and expensive material things. Like the vampires, there is a sadness about her.

The film offers many images of rebirth, like Lena adopting a fetal position on her bed during the initial stages of her transformation and eventually submerging her entire body in a bathtub. I watched with awe as the former Lena becomes no more, at least in appearance, and the new Lena, more beautiful than ever, emerges from the hotel stairs.

There is a subplot involving a cop, Tom (Max Riemelt), who came very close to arresting Lena before she turned into a vampire. He failed because, within seconds, he ended up falling for her. Interestingly, that is the only time the two gets a chance to interact when both of them are human. Can they have a viable relationship given that the game has changed?

While most of it is good entertainment, the final twenty minutes of “We Are the Night” is sloppily put together. I suspected that the director, Dennis Gansel, had something deeper to say about the characters but was pressured into staying within the two-hour mark. As a result, scenes that require a soft landing are cut midair. Others rely on common formulas to get to a resolution as quickly as possible. The arrhythmia threatens to kill the good things it has going for it.

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