August 2005

Memories of Tomorrow

John (Richard Thompson) suffers from amnesia. None of his memories go back further than four years although they do sometimes creep into his consciousness in the form of very disturbing dreams. His partner, Tanya (Rachael Gilchrist), on the other hand, simply sees the past as something to be left behind.

But on the whole, John and Tanya do enjoy an enviably idyllic life in New Zealand.

This all starts to unravel, however, when a stranger (Ray Trickitt) – one that is attracting a lot of very close monitoring – appears on the scene…

And that’s about as much synopsis as I can provide for Memories of Tomorrow without giving away far too much. The storytelling in this film is superb, but based around providing the audience with a steady stream of hints, clues, details and shadings, each building on what has gone before to not only drive the plot forward but also to construct an ever more detailed picture of who Richard and Tanya really are.

Indeed, much of the film is spent trying to figure out exactly what did happen in John’s past, how much Tanya knows, how much Tanya wants John to know and where the stranger fits into all of this.

This is a very effective approach and one that that draws you into the film and holds your attention throughout. But tt does, of course, depend very heavily not only on the quality of the dialogue and the strength of the characterisation, but also on the ability of the actors to bring their characters realistically and three-dimensionally to life.

So it’s nice to be able to say that, not only are the characters all very well drawn, and not only is the dialogue superbly naturalistic, but also that all three of the leads do an excellent job not only of carrying the story, but also of holding your interest in the emotional ups and downs that the characters go through.

And, for a $15,000 film, the production values are incredible. From the visually stunning opening scene – two men on a dune in the rain, which looks a lot better than it sounds – to the final denouement, the cinematography (New Zealand hasn’t looked this appealing to me since I saw The Lord of the Rings), the score and the design all conspire with the actors to deliver a truly powerful piece of cinema.

Memories of Tomorrow is a well written, well acted and genuinely enthralling story that manages to draw two very different genres into a unique and cohesive whole.

At heart, it is a spy story – although more along the lines of The Third Man than James Bond – but one in which the construction of the story, the strength of the characterisation and the performances of the cast combine to create a human drama which packs an emotional punch that you don’t tend to find in this – or any other - genre.

First time writer/director Amit Tripuraneni has just raised the bar for independent filmmakers several notches, and I will definately be looking out for what he does next.

Silver Night

Vampire hunter, Cora Shelby (Andrea Bertola) returns home – covered in blood - after her first successful kill. However, once home, she discovers that she wasn’t as safe as she thought she was…

And that – on the face of it, at least – is the end of Cora. But not, of course, the end of the film.

Cora, it turns out, was not working alone, but was part of a group of vampire hunters led by Margot Gallo (Shawna Bermender). What’s more, Cora had a list, naming the vampires active in her native New York. And now Margot’s team want to get hold of this list.

Of course, the other side, led by 20s bootlegger turned vampire, Anthony Garring (Frank Franconeri), also wants the list – and they certainly don’t want Monica’s vampire hunters to lay their hands on it. And it is around the hunt for this list that much of Silver Night turns.

There are some interesting ideas – and several effective scenes – in Silver Night. The film draws parallels between illegal drugs and prohibition, with Garring moving easily from one form of bootlegging to another – which could be seen as a comment on the whole “war on drugs”.

The film also manages to draw some parallels between addiction and vampirism as well as being the first film – to my knowledge – to consider vampire nutrition.

Unfortunately, none of these ideas are really developed to the extent that they could be and the film tends to fall back onto standard vampire tropes every time things start to get interesting.

It’s a shame since there is some very strong acting in the film – especially on the part of Frank Franconeri who does an excellent job of getting across the pain and self-disgust that comes with vampirism. But, without a central myth to hold the script together, the plotting starts to flit between treating the vampires with Anne Rice type sympathy and seeing them as the soulless eating machines describe by Donlevy (Vernon Gravdal), the film’s resident expert on all things vampiric.

Indeed, there is a whole subplot involving Cora and her former boyfriend and fellow vampire hunter, David (Greg Dashkin), which promises to be ambiguous and a source of uncertainty but proves to be little more a scripting convenience.

And this brings me to my last – and most minor - gripe.

There are references in the film to New York having become a “New York has become a hunting ground for a pack of serial killers.”

Linking the vampires to serial killers – seems to be becoming a bit of a cliché. On one hand, it does allow the filmmakers to get around the ‘large numbers of unexplained deaths’… but I’m not convinced it’s really necessary. Vampire movies are – by their nature – fantasy films. As such, it’s probably better to keep the audience’s attention diverted from the discrepancies than trying to explain them.

And, although the serial killer plotline is referred to, it isn’t used – we don’t any additional police and it doesn’t appear to cause any problems for either the vampires or the hunters. So it would probably have been better to not bring the audience’s attention to the inconsistencies that are an inevitable part of any vampire – or fantastic – film.

Overall, there are some very interesting ideas in Silver Night and writer/director Glenn Andreiev does show an awful lot of potential. And I think that he will make some very good and very original films in the future.

Unfortunately, in the case of Silver Night, the lack of certainty as to what is the underlying vampire myth for the film ultimately undermines it.