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I've just read all of the reviews on this film on this site and nobody
even mentions what this film is really about. Like any "good" horror
story it works on different levels. Like the Zombie films of George
Romero there's an underlying message to this film that has nothing to
do with it's horror exterior. But you have to think about what Michael
Almereyda is trying to say with this story. This isn't just true of
this film, but of all good horror. Dr. Jeckyle and Mr.Hyde-Addiction to
substances, Frankenstein-Man playing at being God, Dracula-Hate
poisoning the mind and soul. The main theme of this film is wanting to
change your life but not being able to escape your old habits and break
loose. It's even mentioned outright several times during the film by
different characters. There's a lot of philosophical discussions by
different characters on this through the film.
This film has black humor, meaning of life philosophy, camera work that serves a purpose to enhance the story and heart felt dramatic performances by all of the actors and actresses.
One of the things that I really like about this film, (and one of the things that many people didn't understand or like) was the use of the toy camera pixel-vision effect. I found it to be a perfect way of economically expressing the intoxicating effect of being under the influence of a vampire. If you watch the film and think about the scenes where it's employed it will be obvious. It isn't just a random attempt to be arty as many of the reviewers seem to think. It's a visual depiction of the impaired state of mind that you might experience if a vampire was psychically manipulating a mortal. And it enhances the film it doesn't detract from it. Whether you like it or not, film-making is an art. Just like painting, drawing, writing or any other form of expression. Some filmmakers just don't have any sense of art, they only wish to mindlessly entertain. That's why people say things like TV rots your mind. Well, I guess that if you watch anything in a mindless manor that could be true. But film that has something to say, something to think about is a worthwhile use of time and intellect.
I have a fairly large collection of "horror" films and "Art House" and I can tell you that Nadja is one of my all time favorites. Every time I watch it I see something new, get a different little joke or notice different connections that I didn't get before. I also enjoy many of the "Mindless entertainment" variety of Vampire films,and so a quote from the writer David Goyer who wrote the screenplays for Blade, "Sometimes you just want to see somebody kick some ass!".
Most people don't realize how huge the genre of Vampire Cinema really is. Dracula is the definitely the most filmed character in film history, and the greater tree of Vampire films in world cinema is so big that it almost impossible to accurately list. Of the Art House and Vintage, comedy and Vampire Hunter categories I would recommend checking out some of my favorites. Many Vampire films are a hybrid of two or more of these categories,but they all have different points that I find attractive,humorous, exciting, entertaining and thought provoking. Again, I haven't seen but a small selection of the huge list of Vampire cinema, so it's likely that I'll be leaving out many excellent selections and maybe some of your favorites in this list. I'm giving this list because the film Nadja could very well be enjoyed if you like some of the films that I like and have been entertained by.
Art House and Vintage: Nosferatu 1922 (The original granddaddy Vampire film from the silent era. The Kino Version is worth paying for with an excellent soundtrack option featuring musicians from Art Zoid), Nosferatu the Vampyre (Werner Herzog), Shadow of the Vampire (a fun comedy-fictional story based around the making of F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu-1922), Vampyr (Carl Theodor Dreyer's atmospheric masterpiece, even though part's of the film were created by accident!),Dracula (1931), The Hammer Dracula series (feartuing the great Christopher Lee), Dracula-Pages from a Virgin's diary (a modern silent film of a Canadian Ballet company filmed by Guy Madden), Blood for Dracula (also known as Andy Worhol's Dracula), Immortality, Ganja and Hess, Habit, Near Dark, Salem's Lot (Based on the novel by Stephan King-the original mini-series, I haven't seen the newer remake) Bram Stoker's Dracula (The love it or hate it classic by F. Coppola).
Some of my favorites from the Vampire Hunter sub-genre: The Blade Series (Again one of those "Love it or hate it" series for some.), John Carpenter's Vampires (This one is hard to classify, lots of comedy too.), The Captain Kronos-Vampire Hunter films by Hammer studios, The Forsaken, and the British TV series "Ultraviolet" (an X-Files type mini-series). Also worth mention is the Japanese-Anime films Vampire Hunter D-Bloodlust (You'll forget that you're watching a cartoon, the story's that good!), and Blood-The last Vampire (A short but well done film).
Some of the comedy genre: Innocent Blood, Modern Vampires, The Breed, Dusk to Dawn (I've only seen the first one, a hybrid of Tarantino's crime style and Robert Rodriguez's horror style), Vampire's Kiss, and Interview with the Vampire (I find this Ann Rice film quite comedic), and Lost Boys (A local favorite being that I live in Santa Cruz).
Nadja is one of the jewels of my collection because it is truly a multi-faceted piece of film-making that defies categorization.
This film received its fair share of support from critics and fans alike.
However, despite good reviews and a loyal following it is still a vastly
underrated film. Michael Almereyda has crafted a film which will have to
endure time to receive the appreciation it deserves.
A Dracula-esque modern day myth with subtle humor and shades of Poe this film is truly a work of genius. The story is remarkably tight and the characters around which it revolves are rendered in incredible depth. Wry humor lends to the tale with brilliance. At one point a title card reads: "Transylvania" and to illustrate the location a small boy hops around with a Mickey-Mouse hat on his head. Not quite the wolf-ridden moors you expected, but still...
Elina Löwensohn shines as the title character, it is not every actor who can so elegantly work with dialogue such as this. She delivers with a candor that is almost absent from films of the last few years, the major ones at least. Galaxy Craze shines brightly opposite Martin Donovan. Peter Fonda is perfect as the Van Helsing character. Suzy Amis, Jared Harris, and Karl Geary do not fail to impress.
Look for Jim Denault's lush 35mm cinematography. He deals out light sparingly to accomplish with sheen and brilliance what most cinematographers dream of. An image so seeped in mood that any one still-frame contains such power as to function independently from the whole.
"Nadja" transcends the limitations of its medium to become something that is truly rare in the modern cinema landscape... A work of art.
A strange, disarming feeling sits over this film, as if everyone is in a semi-comatic haze. That's a good thing. While a bizarre mix of humor, horror flick, and psychodrama, it also draws from (and pokes fun at) the vampire flick tradition. Full of highlights, not the least of which is a ratty haired Peter Fonda.
Nadja is a very refreshing version of the redundant vampire movies out there. It had beautiful and intriguing cinematography that at times seemed like a livening photograph. Although the average viewer that is used to watching "spoon-fed" movies that do not require any viewer intellect or imagination may find this movie to abstract for their taste, It will Certainly be their loss for this movie is a must see if you are any kind of a movie aficionado. I am very happy to have added this movie to my movie history repertoire. Enjoy.
A striking departure from the Wes Craven/Tarantino vampire treatment of
vampirism of late, Almereyda's artful black and white piece gives us
intimate psychological portraits of the count's wayward son and daughter,
and their sexual exploits - specifically as they involve a married couple
whose terminal ennui is exploded by the entrance of Nadja - dracula's
daughter, who falls in love with Galaxy Craze's (am I the only one who
this name a little disturbing, and slightly reminiscent of
porn-names)character and abducts her to Transylvania.
Peter Fonda does a brilliantly and comically paranoid Van Helsing and Dracula himself. David Lynch, whose wife Mary Sweeney produced the film, has a cameo and much of the film's heady cutting and profusion of cigarette-smoke seems to echo Lynch's work - definitely qualifies for an amazon.com-style "Customers who bought "Blue Velvet" also bought "Nadja".
Criticisms would include a slight over-reliance on fairly blatant visual puns (Martin Donovan's character is asked "can you picture that" and responds "yes, I can picture that" to visual accompaniment, and this device is repeated), and perhaps gratuitous use of smoke machine technology, but on the whole a fresh, artful evocation of one of the more encrusted thematic territories in film.
Nadja is not your ordinary vampire film. Though it builds upon the
foundation of the classic Bram Stoker Dracula story, it is more about
post-modernism, the state of modern spirituality, and the alienation and
emptiness of modern life.
Avant-garde cinematography combined with music by Portishead and others frame near surreal dialogues that more philosophical than horrifying. At the same time, the confused and frenetic pace of the movie is almost comical at times.
Altogether a great film if you are a fan of film as art. If you prefer gore and sex over mood and introspection than you'll probably be disappointed.
"Nadja" falls into a category of films I would describe as 'vampire movies for adults.' Viewers seeking an action-packed gorefest along the lines of "From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996) or "Blade II" (2002) should bypass "Nadja". Moody, opiated, and dreamily ethereal, it is similar in this respect to Guy Maddin's more recent "Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary" (2002) and not most other modern vampire flicks. Its emphasis on the emotional and evocative rather than physical aspects of the genre puts it in the company of Tony Scott's "The Hunger" (1983) and Po-Chih Leong's "Immortality" (aka "The Wisdom of Crocodiles") (1998). Shot on black-and-white film, a dying art form, with a good musical score by Portishead, it avoids sinking into pretentiousness with occasional, self-parodying irony (example: "He says he's dying ... for a cigarette."). A major drawback to the film is director Michael Almereyda's overuse of the Pixelvision camera, a technology he has used in the past and should have left there. The acting is spotty, but that's of little importance in a film emphasizing atmosphere over character portrayal. Elina Lowensohn in the title role and Peter Fonda as Dr. Van Helsing (played as he has never been played before) do stand out from the rest of the cast. I'd rate this as 'must see' for aficionados of vampire films, if only to take a break from the less imaginative schlock that overwhelms the genre. Rating: 7/10.
It's a gorgeous film. Elina Lowensohn is amazing, Peter Fonda has to be seen
to be believed--all the performances are excellent--and the dialogue is
somehow equal parts profound and hilarious. It's profound in an almost but
not quite tongue-in-cheek way that makes it cool rather than cheesy. And
it's hilarious in a highly intelligent way rather than a wacky way. Every
scene is a treat. The pixellated scenes are done with a toy Fisher Price
camera and they look great. The music is powerful, moody, perfect. Smart,
interesting, compelling, beautiful, cool--what more do you want? Genius!
I saw this in the theater and completely loved it from the first three seconds into it, and it never let me down after that. I'll admit I'm on the obsessive end of the spectrum with this film--I went back and saw it seven more times that week. I've been waiting for the DVD for three years and my prayers have recently been answered.
Dracula's daughter Nadja wanders New York City,melancholy and driven by her need for blood.She seduces and drinks from the depressed Lucy.Meanwhile Lucy's husband Jim is asked to help his friend Van Helsing who has been arrested for staking Dracula.But then the two of them realize that Nadja is drinking from Lucy.As they try to hunt her down,Nadja and her self-described 'slave' Renfield flee back to Rumania."Nadja" is a post-modern vampire flick which is actually a black-and-white reworking "Dracula's Daughter"(1936).The film was produced by David Lynch who also played a small cameo as a morgue attendant that gets hypnotized by Nadja.The film is splendidly photographed in a glorious black-and-white and offers tons of mesmerizingly dreamy atmosphere.Overall,"Nadja" is much better than overrated and too philosophical "The Addiction".The soundtrack by Portishead and The Verve is fabulous too!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Low-key, off-beat, somber, existential, avant-garde modern
retelling(partially)of Dracula's Daughter has the exotic beauty of
Elina Löwensohn put to good use as the Romanian Count's predatory
vampire daughter, Nadja, roaming New York City for fresh victims,
finding a potential love interest in melancholy Lucy(Galaxy Craze)whose
unhappily married to her gloomy alcoholic husband Jim(Martin Donovan).
Jim and Lucy love each other but never display an appropriate affection
or fireworks which truly exhibit on the outside, if anything their
relationship seems destitute and glum. But, once Nadja initiates a
spark with Lucy after meeting her in a bar, their love and marriage
will be tested as the vampire wishes to conquer her, capture her very
soul through the draining of her very life-source, the blood.
Thankfully for Jim, he knows Dr. Van Helsing(Peter Fonda, in a very
kooky performance, clearly enjoying his role's chance for
eccentricity), the very one who thrust the stake in Count Dracula's
heart. Van Helsing's desire to end Nadja's existence, ridding the world
of a bloodsucker who has been draining New York of it's citizens
through her various rendezvouses with male victims, opening the
possibility of sexual activity, shutting the door on such opportunities
by killing them. Nadja travels with her human slave Renfield(Karl
Geary;very different than the countless nutty incarnations of the
character whose often molded after Dwight Frye, young and attractive,
quite laconic and mysterious, yet can be quite dangerous when
provoked)as they pursue and hunt. NYC provides quite a backdrop for
Nadja, a vast supply if she so wishes to feed. Löwensohn's face is
glamorously shot by director Michael Almereyda's cinematographer Jim
Denault, and the dialogue, often spoke by the actress as a vampire who
is having quite an experience in a city of such diverse and eclectic
people, is quite thought-provoking and poetic.
The film's narrative shifts somewhat once Nadja finds her ill brother Edgar(Jared Harris)and his beloved nurse Cassandra(Suzy Amis). Nadja wishes for Edgar to join her and takes an interest in Cassandra. Van Helsing needs to kill Nadja so that Lucy can be spared and to remove possible danger from Cassandra, his niece.
The aspect of director Michael Almereyda's style that rather left me cold was his use of a camera which pixilates image, specifically during Nadja's vampiric activities. I thought the gorgeous B&W photography was fine on it's own and gave this film an alluring look to match it's titular female vampire. All the performances, the characters, remain subtle, almost zombie-like and distant..this might drive traditional and casual horror fans away and seems to reflect a society of lost souls, emotionally empty and depressed. The music score is quietly haunting and seems to fit the mood of the characters and their stories. This is definitely an art film, with the director giving the vampire genre a different flavour and tapping into contemporary themes that traditional horror fans might find ponderous and pretentious. I liked this a lot probably because of Löwensohn and it's refreshing change of pace from the normal brand of storytelling in regards to the vampire genre, which is oftentimes artificial, predictable and by-the-numbers. While this film does operate using themes associated with vampires(..needing blood to sustain life, not adept to sunlight, with a stake to the heart killing them), I like how Nadja is given a chance to show that she has feelings and often expresses herself with others regarding life and love. I appreciated the additional scene featuring Lugosi(..from White Zombie), lending his face to the Dracula spoken of by her siblings in the film. Fonda, with long hair, plays Van Helsing as if he were an oddball(..the way he should be portrayed, I think, because of his knowledge in "strange things most humans wish not to know about"), an outcast of society who lives, it seems, to serve mankind in ridding the world of dangerous vampires. Martin Donovan and Galaxy Craze play their roles rather sullen and without emotion, which is probably what the film calls for considering their supposed to be aloof.
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