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.
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.
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
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.
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