Julian Radlmaier’s cinematic confrontation with Marxism is slowly becoming an obsession. Which is no harm if the result is such an original masquerade as “Bloodsucker”.
Just like his satire “Self-criticism of a bourgeois dog”, which in 2017 told of the alleged class-struggle clash between a Berlin salon communist and Eastern European migrant workers on an apple farm in Brandenburg, the second feature film by the Dffb graduate premiered at the Berlinale – no longer in the Perspective young talent section German cinema, but in the extra arty competition series Encounters.
In fact, Radlmaier’s crazy mixture of historical drama, romance, vampire clothes, political parable and literary film essay is more mature in chapter subdivision, but also more statuesque than the fragmentary, fresh debut. An A-League team completes Radlmaier’s typical cast of amateurs, friends and oddballs.
Lilith Stangenberg leads the pros. With a pale complexion and casual elegance, she captivates in the role of the rich factory owner’s daughter Octavia Flambow-Jansen as the ideal embodiment of bourgeois decadence.
The summer fairy tale with a rude awakening begins on the Baltic Sea beach: “On a Tuesday in August 1928”.
Some wear 1920s costumes, some don’t. The colorful paragliders of the kite surfers are dancing on the horizon. In the Radlmaier narrative cosmos, the past points to the present and vice versa. The two merge into a highly symbolic entity, in which Coke cans in the factory owner’s household remind us of the American lifestyle as a crude gag, which Octavia, bored of Germany, is striving for.
The actor Ljowuschka, disguised as a baron persecuted by the communists, is also drawn to the USA, more precisely to Hollywood, who ends up stranded in the seaside resort and immediately attracts Octavia’s covetous glances. The Soviet citizen, who fell out of favor with Stalin because he played his rival Leon Trotsky in Sergei Eisenstein’s film “Red October”, is embodied by Radlmaier’s director Alexandre Koberidze. The two studied together at the Dffb. With “What do we see when we look at the sky?”, the Georgian has just had an enchanting romance in the cinema himself.
Octavia’s feelings for the false Baron, who was soon exposed, are not just romantic. The woman is thirsty: for blood. And Jakob (Alexander Herbst as a pure fool), her servant who is also in love with her, is becoming increasingly anemic. Since the stately Russian is just right. His experience in the film industry encourages Octavia, who wants “leisure, poetry and adventure, but not work”, to start her own film production. Capitalists have money in packs.
As a film within a film, Radlmaier already imitates the erotically charged silent film poses of classic vampire dramas. Only Octavia is anything but a victim. As little as Dr. Humburg (Andreas Döhler) and the domineering aunt Erkentrud (Corinna Harfouch), who fears the communists more as a business obstacle than the fascists. “You can at least talk to them,” she says.
A bloody ending misunderstanding of the Wilhelminian conservatives in the Weimar Republic, which Radlmaier mentions in the short scene as if in passing. His laconic dialogues are teeming with such political, cinematic and literary references that Harfouch, Stangenberg and Döhler counteract with stilted play.
What the vampire myth is about the Eastern European, i.e. untameable aristocrat, to whom first serfs and then Westerners fall victim, are to Radlmaier the rich, who rob their employees of the lifeblood along with their labor power. And who show loyalty to their class, despite romantic outbursts – like Octavia, who despite protestations to the contrary remains a businesswoman of her emotions.
She doesn’t even panic when the plebs are at the door with torches and forks. A scapegoat for the deaths is sought and found. In quiet, static shots, the genre mechanics roll through in Radlmaier’s variant. Exaggerated undead gossip à la Polanski’s “Dance of the Vampires” is not his thing. “Bloodsucker” operates subtle thinker humor.