We Are the Night (Wir Sind Die Nacht)
Director – Dennis Gansel, Screenplay – Jan Berger, From the Screenplay The Dawn by Dennis Gansel, Producer – Christian Becker, Photography – Torsten Breuer, Music – Heiko Maile, Visual Effects Supervisor – Alex Lemke, Special Effects – Lange Special Effects ( Roland Buda, Dirk Lange & Gerd Voll), Production Design – Matthias Müsse. Production Company – Rat Pack Filmproduktion GmbH/Constantin Gilm
Karoline Herfurth (Lena Bach), Nina Hoss (Louise), Anna Fischer (Nora), Jennifer Ulrich (Charlotte), Max Riemelt (Detective Tom Serner), Arved Birnbaum (Detective Lummer), Steffi Kühnert (Lena’s Mother)
In Berlin, Lena Bach is a disturbed youth, ignored by her mother and getting into trouble with the law for petty crime. Attending a nightclub, Lena draws the attention of the owner Louise. Louise dances with Lena and then tries to bite her neck in the bathroom before Lena shoves her away. Back home, Lena finds that she has changed – she is now hungry for blood and sunlight burns her skin. Demanding to know what has happened to her, she returns to Louise. Showing Lena that she is now immortal and unable to be damaged by traditional means, Louise and her cohorts Charlotte and Nora draw her into a world of conspicuous consumption where they live without men. However, their habit of casually killing disturbs Lena. She befriends Tom, a detective she fled from earlier. As an attraction grows between she and Tom, this threatens the existence of her new lifestyle.
We Are the Night is a vampire film from Dennis Gansel, a German director who has been an increasing name since his first cinematically released film Madchen, Madchen (2001). Gansel has also made the likes of Before the Fall (2004) and the acclaimed The Wave (2008), while subsequently coming to the US to make The Mechanic: Resurrection (2016). We Are the Night marks his first venture into genre territory.
What is immediately apparent about Dennis Gansel is his extraordinary visual sense. He has determined to make a film that homages chic vampire classics such as Daughters of Darkness (1971) and The Hunger (1983). The later scenes escaping in the limo as it is shot by bullets and penetrated by spears of light recalls the very similar scene in Near Dark (1987). Dennis Gansel has an assurance, energy and style to spare – his work here easily rivals that of Tony Scott in The Hunger and Kathryn Bigelow with Near Dark. The film comes with an extraordinary assurance on every level that elevates a story that in another more routine director’s hands would emerge as fairly average material. Visually, the film resembles a good deal of The Hunger where Gansel has determined to immerse us in a world of sumptuous visual elegance. Berlin has been shot in unique ways that emphasises the richness of the colour palette everywhere Gansel’s camera turns.
The film comes with a kicker of an opening set aboard a plane as Gansel’s camera cruises through, showing the entire passenger complement slaughtered and the girls lounging about, before a hostess is found cowering, Nina Hoss goes in to snap her neck and emerges with blood on her lips, before the three of them open the door and jump out in mid-air. The second half becomes one where Gansel and the foursome of girls delve into a lifestyle of conspicuous consumption against a background of nightclubs and hotel rooms, they wandering through department stores and taking what they want, each driving an expensive fast car, dining in fine dining restaurants and stubbing cigarettes out in their eyes to the disgust of snobby diners or turning a biodome into their own swimming pool and casually slaughtering the guards. This is the post-Hunger chic vampire – the vampire film by way of Sex and the City (1998-2004), set amid a lifestyle that is defined by conspicuous fashion consumption and hedonism. In this chic world, vampirisim is seen as the ultimate empowerment for a woman – as the girls tell Karoline Herfurth at one point, now they are able to be able to eat without worrying about getting fat and have casual sex without concern for pregnancy.
Karoline Herfurth – the extraordinarily beautiful German actress to be found in a memorable minor role in Tom Tykwer’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006) – has been cast as a fucked-up teen outfitted in the best Lisbeth Salander mold and with a spikily aggressive anti-authoritarian manner to match when we first meet her. The one part of the film I never easily brought was her change from cynical social outsider in the first half to the conscience of the group during the second – the two halves don’t easily mix. The film is far more incredulous when it takes nothing more than a bath to change Karoline Herfurth from a socially rejected punkette to sophisticated woman – the bath even appears to instantly change her hair colour and style. Nevertheless, Herfuth holds up well in the part. Nina Hoss does a fine job as the vampish queen bee of the group and the two others, Anna Fischer and Jennifer Ulrich, have a great deal of fun playing to the hilt.