“CHIMÈRES” (Movie Review)
CHIMÈRES is an interesting take on vampirism—in terms of both the “monster’s” unique origin story and ensuing love affair. Director/co-writer Olivier Beguin’s first feature-length film will go down as one of this year’s surprises, as well as a potential redefinition of the genre. What Beguin has succeeded in doing is offering up the classic tropes of a vampire love story wrapped in a new, darkly heartfelt romance (with some gore to boot).
While on vacation in picturesque Romania, Alexandre (Yannick Rosset), a photographer, and his girlfriend Livia (Jasna Kohoutova) take in the sites before a drunken night results in an accident, sending Alex to an emergency room, where he receives a blood transfusion. Upon their return home, Alex begins to suffer troubling symptoms: sleeplessness, headaches, an inability to eat, sensitivity to light and disturbing visions. There’s a clever banality to Alex’s transformation, as it is not a bite of an ancient and powerful Romanian creature that infects Alex, but rather contaminated blood and a health system in shambles that results in vampirism. As with the “rage zombies” of Danny Boyle’s 28 DAYS LATER (2002), this simple gesture of introducing a less-than-mystical origin pays interesting emotional dividends. Suddenly the horror is turned tragic, and we potentially find ourselves relating to the “monster.”
Initially, as Alex’s behavior becomes increasingly despondent and eccentric—taking late-night walks and covering their apartment’s windows with trash bags—it is plausible that his actions may just be the result of brain damage—after all, he was hit by a car. His lover—and the film’s true protagonist—Livia plays the role of the trusting, caring and empathetic other. We feel for her struggle as she tries her hardest to deal with Alex’s mental decline while still supporting an upcoming exhibition he’s preparing for. These sequences will ring true for any viewer who’s been involved with an artist, and the creative factor is coupled with psychologically sharp cuts to mirror representations of a bloodthirsty Alex or the nude Livia bathing in blood—visual representations of the photographer’s post-trauma stress or breakdown. However, this theme is put to rest as Livia learns the truth of Alex’s condition and henceforth must decide on new ways to support her lover. At this point the pace quickens, and CHIMÈRES really begins to shine as Livia’s intense love and support are put to the test. With its final minutes offering multiple gasps and an action-packed revenge sequence filled with blood, head-crushing and spine-ripping, CHIMÈRES’ arguably slow, overedited start makes more sense compositionally as the movie reaches its violent crescendo.
Well-written and -acted, CHIMÈRES is a balanced take on vampirism and the creatures’ ancient struggle with companionship and love. With this film, Beguin exhibits many promising qualities as a director in his use of atmosphere and themes of light and reflection, as well as controlled violence—that is, until the final action scene, which comes dangerously close to parody, as a faceless gang of westerners appear trained in martial arts. Nevertheless, CHIMÈRES perseveres as the sun rises and the story concludes with one final act of love.