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Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person (Vampire Humaniste Cherche Suicidaire Consentant)

Young vampire is just too sensitive to kill, in this sad, hopeful and luminous addition to a well-worn genre - live from Venice Days

QUICK AND DIRTY: LIVE FROM VENICE

The title of Ariane Louis-Seize’s debut feature film strikes as one of those “wanted” flyers that you find in some cafés. But Sasha (Sara Montpetit) is not interested in a new bike or a second-hand sofa, far from it. The young vampire wants to feed without having to rob a human being of their life. The only option for this soft-hearted humanist is to hunt people who wish to die. Enters Paul (Félix-Antoine Bénard), a suicidal teenager who accepts to sacrifice his life – one devoid of meaningful connections – for her sake.

The act is to take place in Sasha’s bedroom, where the two sit timidly on her bed, exchanging furtive looks, as if they were about to have sex for the first time. The sensual red lighting and tense silences effectively evoke the eroticism of death and, conversely, sex as a kind of demise. After all, it’s our materiality that gives rise to carnal desires and sentences us to death. Lust, hunger and mortality are thus inextricably linked in this coming-of-age movie, which explores the horror of succumbing to bodily impulses. It is this moral unease which causes Sasha to pounce on her feet and nervously ask Paul what he wants to accomplish before he dies. That same night, they set out on a quest to fulfil his last wish list.

Cutting through the tragic themes of Humanist Vampire is the deadpan humour of co-writers Christine Doyon and Ariane Louis-Seize. Death is absurdly funny rather than devastating in this dark comedy, especially when the victim is a talentless clown who serves as the pièce de resistance for Sasha’s birthday. Beyond a witty script and an effective set design, it is Sara Montpetit who manages to tie this strange mix of tones into a movie which is at once fun, sad, luminous and hopeful. Her brilliant performance reminds me of Sally’s character in the dark fantasy The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1994) with her wide eyes and gentle – yet sombre – demeanour.

This Quebecois film also bears traces of Jim Jarmusch’s darkly humorous style, the Coen Brothers’ adventurous tonal range, along with Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola and Roy Andersson. Yet Louis-Seize is carving out a space in cinema for the animalistic sensuality of her filmography which, especially in her award-winning short Wild Skin (2016), is groundbreaking. Humanist Vampire may not be as dirty by comparison, but it remains a thought-provoking watch that offers a fresh take on the well worn-out vampire genre.

Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person has just premiered in Venice Days, an independent film festival section held in parallel to and in association with the 80th Venice Film Festival.


By Gaelle Biguenet - 03-09-2023

Gaelle is a freelance journalist originally from France, and based in London. She was introduced to film as a thought-provoking artform upon watching Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966). Bergman’s dep...

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