Retro Film Review: Nadja (1994)

in #aaa2 months ago


There are plenty of reasons why vampirism happens to be so popular subject among film makers. It allows all kinds of interesting themes to be explored while providing the entertainment for the audience. Vampirism can be explored not only from different angles but in different styles, although that doesn't always result in entertaining films. One of such failures is Nadja, 1994 horror drama written and directed by Michael Almereyda.

Protagonist of the film is Nadja (played by Ellina Löwensohn), attractive and exotic woman who spends every night cruising New York bars and picking up men. Those men who go with her soon realise that Nadja is interested in their blood rather than sex. She is daughter of Count Dracula and Romanian peasant and after some 400 years of vampire-like existence she craves for normal life. In the meantime, boxer Jim (played by Martin Donovan) has to bail out his uncle Benjamin Van Helsing (played by Peter Fonda) from prison. Van Helsing is there for putting the stake through Count Dracula's heart. Jim gets his uncle out only to find out that his depressed wife Lucy (played by Galaxy Craze) became victim of Nadja's seduction. Jim and his uncle can save Lucy from becoming vampire if they travel to Romania and kill Nadja with the help of her sick brother Edgar (played by Jared Harris).

Almereyda tried very hard to make Nadja different from other vampire films. He partially succeeded in that. The all-too-familiar plot about ancient Transylvanian vampires stalking their prey in modern cities is modified in an interesting fashion. Van Helsing, character of vampire hunter, is transformed from dedicated scientist into half-crazed pathetic wreck not very different from the monster he has to fight. Black-and-white cinematography also suggests unconventional vampire film. But being different wasn't enough for Nadja to be good. While the acting in the film is great -independent cinema icons Löwensohn and Donovan are well matched by Galaxy Craze and veteran Peter Fonda - Almereyda's direction leaves much to be desired. Too often the images are blurry for no particular reason. The biggest flaw of Nadja is poor balance between film's self-ironic script and actor's deadpan, serious delivery. Too bizarre to be taken seriously and not funny enough to be entertaining, Nadja is just one example of independent film that didn't live to its potential.

RATING: 4/10 (+)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on April 22nd 2004)

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