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IMMORTALITY

An interesting British made take on vampirism, with an impressive Jude Law as a suave bloodsucker on the hunt for a romantic partner, and the exotic and alluring Elina Löwensohn as his prospective mate.

The Package
     This 1998 film, initially titled THE WISDOM OF CROCODILES, had the misfortune to be picked up for US release by Miramax, who (as was their wont) saddled it with the thoroughly bland retitle IMMORTALITY (for a similar example see the 1995 Miramax release GOD’S ARMY, which they retitled THE PROPHECY) and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it theatrical release.

The Story
     Steven is a young Londoner who one day saves the attractive Maria from throwing herself in front of an oncoming subway train. The two commence a somewhat halting relationship, which concludes with Steven revealing himself to be a vampire--and Maria’s death at his hands. Yet upon drinking her blood Steven is dissatisfied, and elects to find a more compatible mate.
     In a museum Steven meets the alluring structural engineer Anne. He grows quite besotted with her, although she proves extremely moody and elusive.
     In the meantime a couple detectives launch an investigation into Maria’s killing. Steven of course becomes the focus of their suspicion, and one of the detectives, the pudgy Inspector Healey, takes to following Steven around. This lands Healey in a lot of trouble when some punks attack him as he trails Steven through a subway tunnel. Steven uses his vampire charm to save Healey’s life, although the punks ultimately come to target Steven--and do so while he’s on a date with Anne. He again utilizes his vampiric talents, this time to beat up the punks.
     Anne starts growing suspicious of her increasingly flighty and unpredictable boyfriend--who it seems is breaking down, with his body becoming increasingly fatigued and emitting blood. Unable to help himself, Steven attempts to drink Anne’s blood one day during sex, after which he reveals to her his true nature. Her reaction is most unexpected!

The Direction
     IMMORTALITY isn’t quite the “vampire art movie” one critic made it out to be, but it is a highly thoughtful and stylish film. Director Po-Chih Leong, a British-bred filmmaker who made this film following three decades of working in Hong Kong, delivers a good looking, tightly controlled piece of work. The erotic content is unusually blunt in a narrative that begins as a more-or-less standard-issue horror film, complete with a pair of meddling investigators, and gradually transforms into an eccentric love story. Most every traditional vampire cliché is jettisoned (the bloodsucking protagonist is seen cavorting in broad daylight on numerous occasions, doesn’t possess any fangs and appears to have no problem with crosses), and the possibility of the vampire’s mate becoming a bloodsucker herself is never breached. TWILIGHT this film thankfully isn’t.
     Jude Law is quite strong in the lead role, with his usual haughty, above-it-all air, which can be quite annoying, actually put to memorable use. The always compelling Elina Löwensohn is even better as Law’s hapless mate, and the filmmakers provide her with a meaty and complex role far removed from the throwaway female roles of most nineties horror flicks.
     The proceedings are quite cerebral in form, indeed a bit too much so, resulting in a film that, in common with its undead protagonist, is markedly distant and subdued. Despite a fair amount of gory action, there’s very little in the way of passion or excitement, and the lengthy discussions about love and mortality slow down an already glacial film, which is further marred by an inconclusive finale.

 
Vital Statistics

IMMORTALITY (a.k.a. THE WISDOM OF CROCODILES)
Miramax Films/Zenith Productions/Goldwyn Films

Director: Po Chih Leong
Producers: Carolyn Choa, David Lascelles
Screenplay: Paul Hoffman
Cinematography: Oliver Curtis
Editing: Robin Sales
Cast: Jude law, Elina Löwensohn, Kerry Fox, Timothy Spall, Jack Davenport, Colin Salmon, Hitler Wong, Stuart Bowman, C.J. December, Anastasia Hille, Nicholas Lamont, Joseph O’Conor
 

     

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