Aboard a private jet strewn with bloody corpses, chic vampire matriarch Louise (Nina Hoss) finishes off her last victim before she and her fetching concubines, elegant onetime silent movie star Charlotte (Jennifer Ulrich) and party-loving club DJ Nora (Anna Fischer), skydive to safety. Elsewhere, thieving street punk Lena (Karoline Herfurth) foolishly pickpockets a Russian pimp and is chased by kindly cop Tom (Max Riemelt) with whom she sparks a surprising friendship even while she eludes him. Lonely and neglected, Lena sneaks inside an abandoned amusement park that Louise has refurbished to host an all-night rave, whilst she uses surveillance cameras to scout potential victims and partners. For centuries Louise has searched for the perfect lover and now thinks she has found her girl in Lena. After flirting on the dance floor, Louise lures Lena into ladies’ room and bestows the vampire bite. Lena awakens the next morning to find sunlight scalds her skin and she has an insatiable craving for blood. Her newfound vampire sisters soon initiate her into their hedonistic immortal lifestyle, but Lena balks at taking human life while Louise takes exception to her obvious attraction to Tom.
Wir die nacht (We Are the Night) started out The Dawn, a more Twilight like script penned by German filmmaker Dennis Gansel. Ironically it was the huge global success of that Stephanie Meyer adaptation that convinced producers to greenlight Gansel’s project, even as it forced him to rework his original vampire/mortal romance concept for obvious reasons. Had Gansel been allowed to make that version back then, he might have produced something more innovative than his finished film which is undoubtedly influenced by the hedonistic, club-hopping vampire antics in The Hunger (1983). However, We Are the Night forgoes the posturing pretension of Tony Scott’s MTV-styled misfire and proves a more engrossing and entertaining vampire romp. The film goes out of its way to seem hip and sexy, but while its idea of sapphic hedonism seems more inclined towards Sex & the City (flash cars, late night shopping mall trips, sunbathing with artificial light, hunky but disposable guys) than genre high-watermarks like Vampires (1974) or especially Daughters of Darkness (1971), for the most part succeeds in crafting an appealing lifestyle and intriguing characters where the likes of Blade (1998) and Queen of the Damned (2002) failed.
Here, vampirism serves as an obvious allegory for the underground gay scene and a form of feminist liberation and empowerment. Louise locks Lena in a room with a violent Russian pimp for her first feed (“The more evil the man is, the sweeter his blood”) and later reveals how she and her sisters slaughtered the male of their species and swore never to pass the vampire gift onto a man. Nora describes their immortal existence as being able to “eat, drink, fuck and snort cocaine without any consequences.” Such themes are nothing new in vampire cinema, but while the film is not original it still presents its ideas with poetry and panache. Take the striking sequence with Lena submerged in the bathtub, instantly transformed from dyed black punk tomboy to gorgeous redheaded ingenue. We Are the Night has a terrific lead in Karoline Herfurth who proves feisty and sympathetic and pulls off a genuine gasp-inducing, “why Miss Jones you’re beautiful” moment, growing steadily warmer without losing any of her original spark.
All the vampires have redeeming aspects: Louise seems genuinely lovelorn, Nora spurns a smitten bellboy because she truly doesn’t want to hurt him, Charlotte pines for her now-elderly human daughter with whom she shares a poignant farewell at a retirement home - a truly moving scene. As is so often the case, the vampire gift proves both blessing and curse, although the crux of the plot turns on Lena spurning Louise for a more conventional heterosexual relationship. Although the film steals the “bullet holes letting in shafts of sunlight idea” from Near Dark (1987), its other gravity-defying action set-pieces are imaginative and exciting without being overly flashy in the usual post-Matrix way. Gansel reportedly shot three different endings for the film, but chose a fittingly ambiguous finish avoiding the expected resolution. Great soundtrack, too.