Katja “Bride of Uwe” von Garnier has provided us with yet more strong evidence that Germany is not going to allow the United States possession of the coveted World’s Most Atrocious Filmmaker Trophy without a serious struggle. Though Ed Wood’s legendary exploits have yet to be equaled, Uwe Boll has come moderately close on one or two occasions and now Katja has joined the fray. Dreaming of the glory she might bring Die Vaterland, Katja brings us her most recent opus, Blood and Chocolate, and it must be taken seriously even though it does not pose a grave threat to Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Blood and Chocolate is a movie about werewolves in Bucharest. They use another term for them in the movie, but I forget what it was and can’t be bothered to look it up (it started with an L). Strange nomenclature aside, they’re werewolves for our intents and purposes. Agnes Bruckner plays Vivian, a young werewolf who tries to brood but ends up pouting. As a child, she got her family of werewolves killed when she led some human hunters right to their home in the woods. Now all the remaining werewolves are gathered together in a tight pack in Bucharest where their leader, Olivier Martinez playing Gabriel, runs an Absynth brewery and insists on a rigid set of laws. But Vivian, always a bit of a loner to begin with, falls in love with a human (Hugh Dancy’s Aiden) and no longer wants the future that her pack has planned for her.
Though it falls short of Ed Wood at his worst, the flick does demonstrate some competently poor filmmaking. Every such movie must have actors who are either, bad, out of their league or miscast and Blood and Chocolate features all three. The protagonist takes a dark, brooding solitary figure and makes her pouty and monotone, Olivier Martinez’ French accent is enough to make sinister humorous, and the various other twenty-somethings posing as teenagers are exactly what you would expect.
Every actor in a bad movie needs some sort of dialogue problem to help him out and the script comes through, though not as frequently as it might. Oftentimes these dialogue problems will be overly flowery and/or awkward sentences that might look pretty on paper but which require an actor of the highest caliber to make them sound natural. Blood and Chocolate takes a different route. It gives lines that a three year old might utter to grown adults. For instance, during a moment that another director might have chosen to make emotionally wrenching and tense, Gabriel tells Vivian that if they don’t kill her love, whom they have captured, he will lead the humans to kill them just like when she was a child and “it will be all your fault!”
A line that bad works on two levels. One, it insults the audience by explicitly stating and explaining the implications of a situation with respect to one of the characters, in this case the protagonist. Two, it forces the sinister villain to spew out a child’s taunt. The Deutsch director sagely avoided any suggestions from actual English speakers on the set and left that line in.
One area where Blood and Chocolate has difficulty is with the roles written into the script. Though of course the vast majority of them are teenagers, or at least in their early twenties, the script flirts with acknowledging that individuals of other ages exists in the world. That Gabriel, the leader of the pack, must be a bit older is a condition to which even the worst of teenager flicks must yield. But a second adult figure also plays a prominent role and even gets some clumsy character development. Two adults with goals and emotions of their own verges on a bit much for teenagers to handle, and the movie nearly lets us down. Fortunately, the character development is obvious, overstated, and run through its arc in a very perfunctory manner.
But if Blood and Chocolate errs with its characters, it makes up for it with a masterstroke of location. It takes an exotic city like Bucharest and fills it with English speakers, giving us all the enchantment of a foreign location with none of the actual foreigners themselves. Or at least very few, and the ones who do appear on screen have the good grace to speak English so that no poisonous authenticity is injected into the endeavor. Keep in mind that this supreme act of Anglocentrism was achieved by a German! Bravo, fr¤ulein, bravo.
Other than that, there is the required bland and unimaginative camera work together with a lack of anything interesting that the characters do on screen, a tedious combination that dulls the senses very quickly. Katja is young and inexperienced, but she has mounted a real challenge here. For now, the all-important Trophy rests in the land that Hollywood calls home. But across the Atlantic a dark, Teutonic threat is gathering. Ed Wood is no longer here to fight for us, and Blood and Chocolate shows all the signs of a director who conceivably could dethrone him. Only time will tell.