My Rating: 3 stars
This movie explores a pretty interesting idea—getting to know a modern-day vampire, Simon, with all the same moral questions and hang-ups as a regular person. He has a hunger for human blood, sure, but he just can’t stand the idea of murdering an innocent person to satisfy this thirst. And, he doesn’t want to create some horrific, bloody mess for anyone to clean up. That’s just rude. Simon is just a regular guy . . . who just so happens to be an undead predator. Well, actually this film does play it a little coy with whether or not Simon is actually a supernatural creature, or if he’s just a human with unnatural appetites. Director Shunji Iwai creates room for doubt. But, my interpretation is that the evidence points to him being a real vampire.
So, to get around his moral reservations, Simon trolls various suicide message boards and chat rooms, hoping to stumble across some innocent young thing, who is really determined to die. If he can just convince these girls to give him their blood, rather than flinging themselves off a bridge, then he isn’t really doing anything wrong, right? These individuals are almost always tormented, and beautiful, young ladies. Whether that’s by chance or design, Simon never explains. But, these suicidal girls do seem more tempting than some big, sweaty dude. And, there’s always been an element of sexual attraction in all the classic vampire stories.
Our protagonist isn’t the only vampire in this world. He knows and hangs out with several others in what looks like a social club that gets together periodically. But, Simon doesn’t really get along very well with these other vampires. They have different personalities, and he doesn’t really approve of these other guys’ approaches to hunting their prey. Simon doesn’t approve of non-consensual attacks, so he doesn’t want to be friends with guys who love to abduct and murder pretty ladies. Would you? This is the modern world, and these vampires are a part of it. Would you be friends with the kind of guy who likes to slip roofies in ladies’ drinks? I would hope not.
Our hero’s moral code makes finding a meal a bit more difficult. But, he’s willing to go through the trouble so that he can live with himself afterward. But, this isn’t the only complication in Simon’s life. He lives with and takes care of his invalid mother. She has full-blown dementia, and is prone to wandering off when unattended. It’s not a good situation. Then there’s the nosy girl who lives in his building who is determined to become Simon’s girlfriend, and who thinks nothing of “letting herself into” his apartment. That’s not the kind of scrutiny you’d want if you were in the business of secretly killing people.
This film definitely has Shunji Iwai’s fingerprints all over it. It’s English-language, which is a first for him, if I’m not mistaken. (That seems to be something that several Asian directors have been trying lately, like Chan-wook Park’s Stoker). But, it’s filled with Iwai’s characteristic moodiness, melancholy, and long, pensive shots. It also captures the bleak realism that he favors. The movie isn’t quite as depressing as All About Lily Chou-Chou, but it’s in the same vein. I think you’ll only want to see this film if you’re into the kind of work that Iwai does. The story is a real downer. But, I enjoyed watching it.