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November 20, 2014

Starz Denver Film Festival 2014 - Norway


Yiannis Veslemes - 2014
Horsefly Productions

If you only have time in your life to see one disco vampire movie in this lifetime, Norway is the one to see.

I'm pretty certain that not all Greek films are as idiosyncratic as the ones lately making the festival circuit and the occasional stateside release. Norway exists in a hazy space somewhere between Dogtooth and its offsprings, and the spare change fantasies of Edgar G. Ulmer. There's no denying that the opening travel of Zano, the vampire, is composed of shots of a model train set, or that Athens is first seen as a series of cutout skyscrapers, but that is part of the charm.

With his blond shag haircut and droopy mustache, Zano looks like an aging rocker. Rather than wait for the elusive Jimmy the Gravedigger, Zano shows up at the Disco Zardoz, a neighborhood dive really, where he begins one very long night, lead by the dark, attractive Alice to an unexpected place.

That the film takes place in a city called Athens is as close to reality as it gets here. Zano finds another vampire, a cadaver thin junkie, who has forsaken blood for heroin. Characters bleed yellow or blue. Zano is taken to do what is described as a job, to bestow eternal life on one very old man, but even vampires, or at least this one, has standards.

Even though Zano mentions that the story takes place in 1984, the year is no more literal than Athens, mostly a collection of empty buildings and a nightlife of punks, drunks, and the down and out. As Zano, Vangelis Mourikis hardly looks like the classic vampire, not thin, and certainly not elegant in his manners. And unlike the vampires that stand still and glower, Zano just wants to boogie, ideally with any reasonably attractive girl that might be available. Even when there is no music, Zano can't stop bopping away. Call it "Saturday Night Fever Dream".

Veslemes is smart enough to not stretch things out further than needed. Even at less than seventy-five minutes, this nighttime journey is on the leisurely side. While there is some adherence to vampire lore, genre purists might be taken aback when Zano has a taste of soup spiced with garlic. This is not your daddy's vampire movie, although between giving the vampire legend new twists with films like The Lost Boys, or giving an old chestnut new life, with rock soundtracks for Nosferatu provides some kind of context for the kind of liberties Veslemes takes with Norway. Suffice to say this is one strange, little film.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 20, 2014 06:17 AM