|Blood & Chocolate|
|Written by Bill Warren|
|Thursday, 01 May 2008|
The central character is gorgeous Vivian (Agnes Bruckner), about 20, whose family was killed back in Colorado. She’s come to Bucharest because the Romanian city is the last stronghold of the “loup-garoux,” the non-human species she belongs to. (Why Romanian, or American for that matter, werewolves call themselves by a bastardized French term isn’t explained, but it does originate in the novel, where perhaps there is an explanation.)
Vivian works in a chocolate shop (had to get the other half of the title in somehow), and one day in an otherwise deserted church, meets Aiden (Hugh Dancy), an American graphic novel artist who’s roaming the world because he injured his father back in the States. This gives him a slightly tragic aura, but means little. Aiden is attracted to her, but Vivian dodges him.
She hangs out in night clubs popular with both humans and loup-garoux, including her cousin Rafe (Bryan Dick) and the four other rowdy pups he hangs out with. Vivian is friendly with Astrid (Katja Riemann), an aging beauty longing for the pleasures of youth; she’s Rafe’s mother. These are mostly provided by pack leader Gabriel (Olivier Martinez), a dark, brooding guy with a goatee and very cool transportation, a sports car and motorcycle, and a cool real-world job: he owns an absinthe factory. Every seven years he’s supposed to mate with a chosen loup-garoux woman; Astrid hopes it will again be her, but Gabriel wants Vivian.
We’re given a demonstration of the regular group activity of the loup-garoux pack. They gather in a ruined amphitheater in the woods, and Gabriel brings a drug dealer he captured in the city. The drug dealer is told to run through the woods toward a river; if he can cross it, he’ll be let go. But, Gabriel cautions, no one has yet crossed the river. Set free, the frightened man flees, and the pack follows, dashing free-running style through the woods, gracefully ascending or leaping over obstacles. After a few picturesque moments, they each change into wolves (in a white blur) in mid-leap. Those who catch up with the fleeing human, mainly Gabriel and Rafe, rip him to shreds. Vivian hangs back.
We’ve also seen Rafe follow a young woman who spurned him in the night club. First, he trails her in human form, doing free-running ascents of walls, leaping gracefully about (more feline than canine). Then, in wolf form, he confronts her in her room and kills her (mostly off screen).
Vivian gives in to her attraction to Aiden, and there have some embarrassingly corny lightly romantic outings in the city, dashing through fountains, strolling damp cobblestoned streets at night. Of course, this is all being set up for a payoff.
And that comes when Gabriel decides the pack must do something about Vivian’s forbidden love for a normal human. This leads to a couple of messy climaxes, one a battle between Aiden and Rafe in a church, the other a gunfight (!) between Rafe’s pack and Aiden in the absinthe factory. The church battle is interesting, that in the absinthe factory isn’t, though it allows director Katja von Garnier to pose Agnes Bruckner picturesquely against a backdrop of leaping flames.
The novel “Blood and Chocolate” drew a lot of praise; there’s no wonder that it was chosen for filming. But why would the makers of this movie tread that weary old Hollywood path of bad adaptation? The plot of the film is much less complex than that of the novel, much less driven by personalities, and far less interesting. It’s just a bland romance of gorgeous people in a handsome old city with occasional fights and some impressive-looking but unconvincing spates of “free running” athletic activities.
The film’s story is drab and colorless, and so are most of the characters; Rafe has a few moments, but he’s dislikable. Gabriel is so extravagantly the dark Romantic Other that it’s almost comic; Olivier Martinez’s performance is intended to be brooding and charismatic, but mostly he looks a bit silly. Agnes Bruckner is generally good, and her character develops well, though the transitions are abrupt, almost jerky. Hugh Dancy is simply there.
As a high-definition video, “Blood and Chocolate” is about average. Cinematographer Brendan Galvin shot in widescreen, and makes good use of the attractive Romanian locations. A great deal of detail was available to him in Bucharest, with the churches, twisting old streets and handsome buildings, so high definition pays off here. Kevin Phipps’ production design seems largely to consist of good location scouting, but the forest we see was constructed for the film, but looks completely realistic.
But there has to be a reason to watch the movie in the first place, and unfortunately, there really aren’t very many. Maybe teenage girls, the intended audience, will like it—but probably not if they’ve read the novel first.