PLOT: In 1932 Vienna, a vampire who has lost the thirst for life seeks psychiatric help from Dr. Sigmund Freud and pursues a woman who may be the reincarnation of his lost love.
REVIEW: The fact that the legendary Dr. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, plays a role in writer/director David Rühm's Austrian horror/comedy THERAPY FOR A VAMPIRE is a major selling point in the marketing of the movie, as you can tell from the focus the therapy aspect is given in both the English title and the original German title, DER VAMPIR AUF DER COUCH. Despite how much attention that element is getting, fans of Freud excited to see a fictional forgotten chapter in the doctor's life may be a bit disappointed with how he's used here. Freud's part in the proceedings is actually quite minor, and the story really could have been set at any point in the last one hundred years or so and the therapist given any random name and it would have played out in exactly the same way. The inclusion of the historical figure mainly just serves to bring about a smile when you recognize the name.
THERAPY is a romantic tale that starts off with the introduction of a young man named Viktor (Dominic Oley), who may be a gifted artist but is a pretty terrible boyfriend, always focusing on the things he doesn't like about his girlfriend Lucy (Cornelia Ivancan). When he paints her portrait, the Lucy on the canvas has the hairstyle, hair color, and fashion sense he wishes the real Lucy would have.
Viktor has been hired by Freud to sketch the images from the doctor's dreams, which often involve horrific things happening to young women. Women who have Lucy's face in Viktor's sketches.
Enter the vampire of the story, Tobias Moretti as Count Geza von Közsnöm. It can be tough to evaluate a performance delivered in a language you don't understand, but Moretti breaks the language barrier with his screen presence. I had to trust the subtitles to know what he was saying, but I still found this actor captivating to watch. The Count has been around for hundreds of years, and he seeks the help of Freud because he has grown weary of his immortality. You can get a taste of the film's humor through the puns that are used to describe the Count's ennui: he has lost the thirst for life, life has lost its bite. Enhancing the Count's unhappiness is his relationship with his wife Elsa (Jeanette Hain), who is obsessed with her looks, having forgotten what her own face looks like, it's been so long since she was able to look in a mirror. This brings about another pun in therapy. When Freud asks why Elsa can't look at herself in the mirror, the Count answers, "She's never reflected on that."
After seeing Viktor's portrait of Lucy in Freud's office, the Count believes he has found the answer to his troubles. He can have Viktor paint Elsa to show her what she looks like, and he can ditch Elsa in favor of Lucy, who he is convinced is the reincarnation of his long lost love Nadila, the woman who turned him into a vampire and who promised him, right before being executed, that she would return to him one day.
The Count will have to handle things in a very specific way to get Nadila's consciousness to awaken within Lucy, and that sets the stage for the rom-com shenanigans that make up the bulk of the film. With the Count, Lucy, Viktor, and Elsa all in the mix, we have something even more complicated than a love triangle here. Add in the fact that the Count's human servant also has the hots for Lucy, and we have a love pentagon.
When it comes to the horror/comedy balance, THERAPY FOR A VAMPIRE most definitely leans more heavily toward comedy, bringing the laughs through a mixture of wordplay, sight gags, and some physical comedy. Unlike many other horror/comedies, it does practice some restraint, never going too goofy or over-the-top.
It is a really fun movie to watch, breezing through its 88 minute running time at a quick pace. I was invested in the story of the characters and liked the moral that Rühm was trying to get across with it.
I was also stunned by the visuals that Rühm and cinematographer Martin Gschlacht were able to cpature, with the help of some digital manipulations. Rühm is a veteran filmmaker, and this appears to have been the first feature he has made after taking a seventeen year hiatus. If this was indeed his return to the medium after years away, it was a triumphant one. This movie is gorgeous to look at.
Rühm may not have done as much with the character of Freud (who is played by Karl Fischer) as he could have, but that quibble aside THERAPY FOR A VAMPIRE is a real joy.