Wednesday 3 March 2021

Berlinale 2021: Bloodsuckers - A Marxist Vampire Comedy by Julian Radlmaier

Writer/director Julian Radlmaier ‘s 2021 film Bloodsuckers – A Marxist Vampire Comedy (Blutsauger in the original German) has firmly nailed his genre aspirations to the mast of his film title. Nominally set in late 1920s Germany a wandering actor Ljowushka (Aleksandre Koberidze) becomes of interest to a wealthy German vampire Octavia (Lilith Stangenberg) who at first, assumes the Russian is an aristocrat fleeing the Soviet regime. Holidaying in her family’s seaside estate with her lovelorn servant or human vampire familiar Jakob (Alexander Herbst), Octavia quickly acts on her attraction to Ljowushka and he is invited to stay. 

The film itself is not overly concerned with maintaining a cohesive plot and harkens towards early German vampire films such as Vampyr (dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1932) favouring a near art instillation style over a more traditional narrative arc. For instance Radlmaier seems to directly echo Dreyer in how they both depict a ghost in their vampire films. However, this technique was sophisticated in the early 1930s but more purposely kitsch in the 2020s. Vampires in this film do indeed drink blood but are undisturbed by daylight or any of the other vampire restrictions. They are of the capitalist, bored bourgeoisie brand of vampires as explained by the reading direct quotes from Marx’s The Capital

The film does not develop a sense of threat but rather absurdist comedy playing on Marxist theory, xenophobic and racist fears. However, this is done mildly for social commentary and comedic affect. Comedy is also gleamed or at least attempted, by pointedly mixing 1920s period costuming and sets with modern continuity inconsistencies such as kite surfing in the background of a scene or a can of Coca Cola being drank in the foreground. There are also aspirations towards Wes Anderson levels of characterisation, dialogue and direction which sadly, usually fall short of their mark. 

Though Radlmaier’s film has been produced with ambition, its 125 minute running time takes what would have been a diverting short film idea and spreads it far too thin as a feature length film. Of interest when sitting within the realms of an art house film, neither the direction or acting however, make this film an essential contribution to comedy or the vampire genre.

Review by Mairéad Roche 

Bloodsuckers - A Marxist Vampire Comedy was presented in the Encounters selection of the Berlinale 2021.

Bloodsuckers - A Marxist Vampire Comedy. Germany 2021. Directed by Julian Radlmaier. Starring Lilith Stangenberg, Alexandre Koberidze...

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