First published by Little White Lies
Released (at least in its native Germany) just two years after Let The Right One In (2008), Dennis Gansel’s We Are The Night (Wir sind die Nacht) is another attempt to reinscribe the vampire mythos upon modern Europe. After a montage of images (from colour and then black-and-white photographic stills to paintings) depicting key moments of Berlin history in reverse order, with the same blonde woman always eerily present in the background, we cut to a plane’s interior, and there she is again, surrounded by dead passengers and crew, as well as by her two undead companions.
For Louise (Nina Hoss) is on an eternal quest for lost love that is as impossible to slake as her thirst for human blood. The first woman Louise turned, the silent-era starlet Charlotte (Jennifer Ulrich) who in one scene we see cleverly composited into Dr Mabuse: The Gambler, has never recovered from having to abandon her beloved daughter for a decadent lifestyle with which she has long since grown jaded, and annoys Louise with her ceaseless melancholy; and while Nora (Anna Fischer), Louise’s relatively fresh pickings form the Love Parade, is more fun than Charlotte, she is also less sophisticated. So Louise is looking to expand her vampish coterie, and her drifting eye soon falls upon Lena (Karoline Herfurth), an ex-con pickpocket with a countercultural look (hoodie, nose ring, spike dyed hair, tats) and insolent attitude that are pure Lisbeth Salander.
Once turned, Lena transforms into a pretty princess (expressly compared by Louise to Cinderella) – yet despite all the attractive perquisites of vampirism (“we eat, drink, sniff coke and fuck as much as we like,” as Nora puts it, “but we never get fat, pregnant or hooked – enjoy it”), Lena can neither reciprocate Louise’s love nor countenance killing others, while her growing interest in Tom (Max Rienelt), the policeman pursuing her for more than just legal reasons, runs counter to the gynocratic coven’s distrust of the living in general and of men in particular.
While the plot of We Are The Night is a familiar enough mix of elements from The Hunger and Near Dark, an assortment of seemingly throwaway details ensures that the film always remains intriguing around the edges. We learn, e.g., that only those with ‘the gift’ can be turned, and that male vampires – “too loud, too greedy and too stupid” – have been thoroughly wiped out by both humankind and their own female counterparts. The result is an odd – and therefore interesting – blend of genetic elitism, feminist emancipation and rave-culture hedonism, where oldworld bloodlines leave a trail imprinted in the postmodern age, and where for every unreconstructed, aggressive misogynist (e.g. the loathsome Russian pimps) there is also a decent, respectful ‘new man’ (like Tom). It helps that director Dennis The Wave Gansel wraps all these stimulating contradictions in a slickly stylish audiovisual package.
© Anton Bitel