Title: Requiem for a Vampire (1971)
Director: Jean Rollin
Cast: Marie Pierre Castel, Mireille Dargent, Philippe Gaste, Louise Dhour
Requiem for a Vampire starts off with two teenage girls, dressed as clowns riding a car that’s being chased by another; the passengers of both cars shoot at each other relentlessly. What are these girls running away from? What happened before? Director Jean Rolling doesn’t want us to know, but apparently it involved a circus, or a clown show of some sort. Nice way to start the movie I must admit, to keep us in mystery as to why these girls are in clown attire, but whatever, it adds to the weird vibe of the film, which by the way just gets weirder and weirder as it goes along. I’m having a blast checking out Jean Rollin’s films, last night I had the pleasure of seeing Requiem for a Vampire for the first time. I have to hand it to Rollin for sticking so obsessively to his favorite genre monsters for practically his whole career; I don’t believe any other director has ever explored vampires on film as extensively as Rollin has. The way I see it, Rollin did for vampire movies what George Romero did with zombie films, he explored them as much as he could, till vampires became synonymous with his name.
Requiem for a Vampire is an early Rollin film, this was Rollin’s fourth film, before it he’d made The Rape of the Vampire (1968), The Nude Vampire (1970) and The Shiver of the Vampires (1971). Requiem for a Vampire is a film that has all the things you can come to expect from a Rollin film, I of course talk about lesbians in love, vampires, bats, graveyards, skulls, castles, beautiful scenery and lots of nudity. The difference is that this one isn’t as poetic or surreal as some of his later work. As some of you might know, Rollin had a background in porn films, and what he’d do is make these vampire films in between some of his hardcore porn films. I haven’t seen his earlier stuff, but it is my estimation that the further back you go in his work, the more porn like his vampire films will be.
For example, Requiem for a Vampire is filled with a whole lot more sexuality and nudity then other films of his that I have seen. On this one girls are frequently either topless, or being raped, or having sex with each other or with men, I mean the sexual content on this one is extremely high. These two girls stumble upon a castle filled with violent sexually depraved vampires who start to rape them and torture them in many ways because get this: in this movie, in order to become a full vampire, you cannot be a virgin! You are either one or the other, but not both; so at one point it’s all about these girls losing their virginity! The nudity in Requiem for a Vampire, is not erotic or beautiful as opposed to other Rollin films where it is. On this the sexuality is savage and depraved. This film will probably seem offensive to a lot of people out there, so if you can’t take that sort of thing, then don’t even bother with this one, this is a violent and sexual film every step of the way, strangely enough, there’s also a lot of visual beauty to it which is something that Rolling always excelled at, orchestrating these beautiful images. But then again, you ever wanted to see a bat giving oral sex to a girl? Look no further! So yeah, expect a Rollin film with a slightly higher sexual content than usual, there's this rape scene that simply takes for ever.
For a long time, Requiem for a Vampire functions almost like a silent film, with no dialog whatsoever. In fact the two main characters don’t talk to each other until about fifty minutes into the film! The films entire first half is without dialog, it’s just the girls escaping, running, hiding, having sex with each other and enticing men to have sex with them all without a single word spoken. It’s a different kind of film in that sense, I guess Rollin did this for the same reason that directors of Spaghetti Westerns used as little dialog as possible: to facilitate and minimize the dubbing process. It could also have something to do with the fact that Rolling wrote this screenplay in a stream of thought sort of way, he wrote it without any constraints in his mind, many say it’s the most purely Rollin film out there, so this makes it an important part of his body of work, many of his later films would have many elements found on Requim for a Vampire, so this is a seminal Rollin film, if you don’t like this one, chances are you won’t like any Rollin film.
Another element that characterizes this film and this is one thing I didn’t really love about it is that it’s kind of cheesy. I mean, the lead vampire that the girls meet, the one that wants to turn them into his vampire lovers…he is this old man, he looks like a washed up Bela Lugosi, dressed in this clichéd red and black cape? So freaking cheesy, this head vampire looked anything but menacing. He looked like this old man dressed up as Dracula? To top things off all the vampires in the film have these ultra fake looking fangs that looked simply terrible. In one scene the vampire can’t even talk right because he is trying to hold the fake fangs in his mouth. I hated that cheesy stuff on this one, because the film looks so beautiful at times, but then bam, the cheesiness sets in and brings it all down. On the plus side; cheesy elements were eschewed in Rollins future films, Rollin got a whole lot more poetic as his films evolved.
Thankfully, the film has more good elements to it than bad ones. Apparently Rollin’s always had an eye for beauty in nature and architecture because once again his cinematic eye focuses on beautiful vistas, trees, mountains, night skies, he often times focuses on breathtaking sunsets and cloud formations. He also shot the film inside this ancient castle, it just looks haunting. The visual compositions that Rollin comes up with is the element of his films I love the most and on Requiem for a Vampire he demonstrates that he’s always had that eye for beauty. All in all, this is an extremely simplistic film, Rolling himself says that it was an exercise in simplifying the structure of film, the film is a stream of consciousness effort, something coming straight out of Rollins mind; this is probably why the film has such an emphasis on sex and violence, two of the most purely human traits. This is very much a Rollin film, only a bit cheesier and a times even child like. It seems to me that Rollin’s body of work is one that should be explored by any self respecting lover of vampire films. I love how his films all have a familiarity to them; Rollin has said that his films function as a series of connected dreams and stories, and I believe him. When you watch his films you feel as if they all exist within the same universe, a universe I will be visiting more frequently in the days to come.
Rating: 4 out of 5