In 1932 in Vienna, Count Kozsnom, who has been married to his wife, the Countess, for a long time and is quite tired of her, goes to see a shrink about what to do. He dreams of killing his wife, generally by driving a stake through her heart. You might think this excessive, but the Count, you see, is a vampire, and has been wed to the countess (also a vampire) for 500 years. For them the words “until death” have little meaning, and the shrink–Sigmund Freud–not a clue as to their supernatural nature.
So goes the clever conceit for Therapy for a Vampire, a very, very funny Austrian effort, written and directed by one David Rühm, that ranks as the best vampire comedy since last year’s New Zealand entry, What We Do in the Shadows. The testy travails of the Kozsnoms (Tobias Moretti and Jeanette Hain), which involve Freud (Karl Fischer), a young painter (Dominic Oley) and his girlfriend (Corneila Ivancan), and a hapless Kozsnom helper (David Bennent), should have you in stitches, too, I think.
Rühm shrewdly makes vanity the main cause of the Count’s loathing of his wife–namely that, being a vampire, she cannot see her reflection, and therefore cannot see how she appears, and so constantly asks him if she looks beautiful. Which leads to the young painter, who works with Freud. He could paint her, the Count tells his wife. Others have tried and failed, she responds. He has a special gift, he says. (The apparent vampiric curse that won’t allow her be painted says otherwise.)
The painter’s only to distract the Countess, of course, as the Count is very interested in the painter’s girlfriend, who he believes to be the reincarnation of a long-ago love. His efforts to convince her of this involve hypnotism and an ancient spell, and hilariously don’t go as planned, partly thanks to Bennent (who keeps shooting people with tranquilizer darts). The sessions with the Countess and the painter also provide laughs, as she purrs out threats and flits about the apartment and a nosy neighbor interrupts them.
Beyond conceiving a bounty of terrific, clever humor, Rühm also proves a skillful visual stylist. In one shot, a big, bright moon hangs in a cloudy sky. In another, the Count tosses Bennent, to hilarious effect, across a yard. Perhaps the neatest effect has the Countess neatly nicking Oley’s neck so that a small amount of blood arcs into her glass. And Rühm gets great results from simple, practical techniques, like having the Count suddenly appear or disappear, or when the Countess snatches victims away from our view. – [DVD]
DVD Release Date: 9/6/16