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  Nadja Dracu-lass
Year: 1994
Director: Michael Almereyda
Stars: Elina Löwensohn, Martin Donovan, Galaxy Craze, Peter Fonda, Suzy Amis, Jared Harris, Karl Geary, Nic Ratner, Jack Lotz, David Lynch
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Nadja (Elina Lowensohn) is talking to a guy in an bar one night, telling him of her rich father who supports her. Her father is actually Count Dracula, and later, as she feasts on her latest victim, Nadja is filled with the feeling that her father has died. She's right, the Count has been staked by Van Helsing (Peter Fonda) and when news of this reaches the vampire hunter's nephew Jim (Martin Donovan) he meets up with him. What Jim doesn't know is that his wife Lucy (Galaxy Craze) has encountered Nadja in a bar, and taken her back to their apartment...

Written by the director Michael Almereyda, this was the vampire movie as seen through the eyes of the nineties American indie movie. So instead of exciting action with Van Helsing and his nephew running around after the bloodsuckers, the film adopts a languorous pace and features many low key conversations between the characters, touching on philosophy and problematic relationships. Shot in black and white, it is not short on atmosphere, and the primitive Pixelvision video camera Almereyda used in Another Girl Another Planet is employed to give us a sort of Vampire-vision.

As expected, Nadja gets her teeth into Lucy, leaving her in a trance-like state and on the brink of becoming a vampire, which makes it convenient that Jim has Van Helsing for an uncle. Nadja has a twin brother, Edgar (Jared Harris), who is wasting away and being tended to by his nurse, Cassandra (Suzy Amis) who is unaware of his undead state (didn't she check for a pulse?). Edgar wants to die, but Nadja is having none of this, and is set on continuing the bloodline through Lucy and, eventually, Cassandra.

As the title character, Lowensohn has just the right sense of Old World decadence for her role, and just the right accent, too. Switching between melancholy (yes, another self-pitying vampire) and steely resolve, she is perfectly cast. The most eccentric casting, however, is Peter Fonda's Van Helsing, who comes across like a paranoid, fixated sixties survivor, making odd observations like the weary Dracula being like Elvis in the end, or "Blood is like chewing gum to these creatures!" Against expectations, Fonda is a great choice, full of life while the others are drained of their spirit.

Family relationships are the core of the piece; the poisonous Dracula family corrupting everyone they touch, with only Edgar willing to change. Nadja and Van Helsing have their obsessions to keep them alive, but the others are empty inside, gaining no comfort in each other. It's a modern ennui, which Cassandra blames on a lack of spirituality in their lives, but what they really need is company, the immortal nature of vampires representing the loneliness and lack of meaning in the characters' existence, just carrying on for the sake of tradition. Nadja may be a pretentious film, but it's a novel twist on the old genre to approach it in this style, and there are pleasures to be had if you don't mind the slow pace.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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