Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sangre Eterna

Teen bloodsucking orgy!

>> Chilean director Jorge Olguin brings his unique vampire feature Sangre Eterna to Fantasia


Just when you thought that vampire fixation of yours had been sucked dry, a cool Chilean director has arrived to paint the cinema red all over again. And the blood has never tasted better - or looked better, for that matter.

With his latest feature, Sangre Eterna, Jorge Olguin has taken the well-trodden turf of teens bitten by the vampire bug and given it a new, funny and alternately seriously disturbing twist. Fantasia freaks will recall that Olguin's feature debut, Angel Negro, screened at the festival's 2001 edition. His wacky universe is wound up again on the big screen, and here, he's managed to give the vampire genre a good, sharp bite in the neck.

Sangre Eterna opens with apparently sweet, innocent Carmilla showing off her new goth look to her high school buddies. Carmilla finds herself straying from her usual group of straight friends and falling in with the goth crowd, finding herself sexually drawn to the leader of the goth pack, M. She's soon drawn into their vampire role-playing game, in which four sexy teens dredge up various fantasies about battling vampire hunters. It all seems so real, the fights in which bullets slice into our dear vampire friends like so much gunfire in an over-the-top Peckinpah Western. And the vampire hunters are closing in! Who will get out and survive and who will be hunted down for the cruel bloodsuckers they really are? It sure helps that the vampire goths, male and female, are sexy and alluring (funny how that works).

Olguin manages some truly dark comic touches up until this point, but then the movie takes one of those beautiful about-faces, morphing into something quite different. Taking its cues from George A. Romero's occasionally-overlooked Martin, Sangre Eterna has characters utterly lost in the battle of perception between fantasy and reality, make-believe and truth, madness and sanity, dreams and eyes-wide-open consciousness. In doing so, Olguin drags his audience, kicking and screaming, into the same netherworld, effectively undermining our expectations and pulling that old reality rug out from under our feet. He's an exciting director, and this is the kind of film that will undoubtedly be shown in decades to come at retrospectives of his work. A fabulously fun and kinky little follow-up to his debut, Sangre Eterna made a Chilean vampire convert outta me. Olguin talked with the Mirror about his inspirations and the charm of vampires from his Chilean office.

Mirror: What drew you to vampires?

Jorge Olguin: A lot of things, but no doubt a big part of it is that vampires have such a charm to them, because they have such massive power over others, and that a vampire can take away someone else's essence, their vitality. And vampires can hide away in the shadows, without anyone noticing them. A vampire works well metaphorically: they can be someone who has an influence on other's politics or economics. That vampire can then be exposed for their situation or their political reality. There are a lot of vampires in South America.

Moved by Martin

M: Your movie has been compared to a number of very different things, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Peckinpah Westerns to the work of George A. Romero. What were some of your main inspirations while making the film?

JO: I see a lot of films, and ultimately they become part of my environment and my reality, because ultimately I use them for inspiration to make my own films. Sangre Eterna was influenced by Martin by George A. Romero. I was taken with its ambiguity; the vampirism is the fantasy of the main character, but his story says that he is a vampire. This is a film that distresses you with its bloody hero. Certainly, that's part of what inspired me to make my character a charming anti-hero as well.

M: I had never heard of a Chilean vampire movie before. Does the country have a tradition of them?

JO: It's rare!!! Not many, in Chile there aren't many movies with vampires, but we have a rather brief movie industry history. Fantastic films didn't exist. My two films are two of a kind in Chile, I like to think that they've opened the way for things like this in Chile.

M: I guess Pinochet is a bit of a vampire himself.

JO: Certainly, he created problems and real horror stories long before me.

M: The vampires in your movie are outsiders. I felt like you treated them very sympathetically, even when they're chomping on people.

JO: The reason is for many factors, especially the budget. You must remember that my movie was filmed with only $160,000 (U.S.), this is the reason that my action sequence were limited. But I intended to do and create unreal beings, with surreal movements (like a zombie, a vampire is dead but alive). Vampires are entertaining precisely because they are forces of the supernatural; this is the reason their movements must remain unnatural. I filmed the vampires upside down and at full speed, then if you project it in a normal speed in 24fps in a scene, you then feel an unreal emotion.

Paranoid about pandemics

M: I felt the disease metaphor pretty strongly while watching Sangre Eterna. Obviously, it's been on our minds a lot lately, what with SARS, especially here in Canada. How consciously were you trying to evoke contagion anxiety?

JO: I think your comment is interesting, here in Chile none of the journalists asked me that, and the truth is yes. My movie is a story about paranoia, paranoia is infected with evil and our antihero tries to save his friends from it all. That is to say, in the same case when cancer needs treatment, sometimes the treatment to solve the disease is more brutal and mortal than the disease. The Savior of my movie is a danger cleaner, someone who destroys his friends because he thinks that's the best way to actually save his friends. This is a hard metaphor about our human species to swallow, but some violent events in our history back up the idea. Remember that some leaders in our history, when they wanted to exterminate what they thought of as the evil, they caused a lot of damage and killed a lot of innocents.

M: Your film shifts gears very effectively indeed, going from comic overtones to a seriously dark atmosphere in the latter half of the film. What brought you to this genre fusion?

JO: The film is an exercise about the same genre. If you pay attention, the violence is enjoyable in the shot of fantastic zone and in the other cases there is also humour. The characters of this movie sometimes escape and amuse themselves. On the other hand, when my central character doesn't feel well, the movie shifts, and he becomes increasingly terrified, his paranoia increasing. The story becomes incredibly distressing and there is an atmosphere with dark horror and you feel claustrophobia. At this point there really isn't much entertainment going on. When you reach the climax you understand enough. I like to experiment, although my movie is relatively low budget. I think that the audience needs to explore this kind of unique cinema. I know that the vampires in South America are unusual and freakish. I like to think that people will take risks when they go and see movies.

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