Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Vampire (4 Stars)

This is my Halloween Challenge film #11. It's the first English language film by the Japanese director Shunji Iwai. It might be difficult for my readers to track down, depending on where you live. In Germany it's been released on DVD and Blu-ray. In America it's available to watch on Amazon Prime. If you live in England or any other country you'll have to import a copy from Amazon.DE. Click the picture above for a link.

"Vampire" is a generic title for a very non-generic film. It explores the world of fake vampirism. Try to put yourself into the mind of Simon Williams, a 28-year-old high school Biology teacher from Seattle. Imagine that you're not a vampire. It's easy if you try. Then imagine that you want to be a vampire. This is Simon's dilemma. His solution is to take refuge in Internet chat rooms. In one chat room, #Vampires, he talks to people who claim to be vampires. They have occasional meetings in real life, but all the members are pretentious fakes who sit around wearing capes and drinking red wine. He finds more genuine people in another chat room, #Side-by-cide. It's a chat room used by suicidal teenagers who want to find partners for joint suicide. Simon meets several young girls in this way. He tells them he will drain their blood first, then his own. When a girl is dead he drinks her blood from the bottles he's filled, pretending to be a vampire, but that's all it is: pretence.

Simon wins a reputation for himself as a serial killer. The newspapers call him "The Vampire". That's good for his ego, but it doesn't make him a real vampire. The film is careful to make it clear that Simon isn't a psychopath who kills for the sake of killing. A clinical psychopath has no emotions, but Simon is capable of feeling, and in his own way he thinks he's doing good. He's helping young people who want to die experience a comfortable painless death in the company of a good friend. It's not murder, it's assisted suicide. He begins to question what he's doing when he find one of the girls in his school class about to hang herself and instinctively talks her out of it. He asks himself whether it wouldn't be better to help the teenagers in the chat room by talking them out of suicide

In Germany DVDs and Blu-rays released since April 2010 frequently use something called a Wendecover, best translated as flip cover. Germany, like most other countries, has recommended age limits for watching films. In Germany the limits are 0, 6, 12, 16 and 18. Since the early days of commercial video tapes it's been compulsory to print the age limit either on the box or on a paper inlay, but it was never determined how it should be printed. In many cases the age restriction was hidden in the small print somewhere on the back, difficult for a potential customer to find. This was changed in April 2010. The age restriction has to be printed on the front cover, colour coded, in a square box at least 34 millimetres wide. 0 is white, 6 is yellow, 12 is green, 16 is blue and 18 is red. Here's the inlay for "Vampire".

After the introduction of the new law a lot of customers complained, quite rightly, that the age restriction box's size and colour spoils the cover art. This problem was solved by the introduction of the Wendecover, now used by more than 80% of new film releases. The reverse side of the inlay is identical to the front side, apart from the age restriction missing. This means that after buying a DVD or Blu-ray the customer can take out the inlay, turn it over, and put it back in. Here's the reverse side of the "Vampire" inlay.

Inlays like this are unique to Germany. It's a typical German solution for a typical German problem.

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