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When troubled teen Milo, who has a fascination with vampire lore, meets the equally alienated Sophie, the two form a bond that begins to blur Milo’s fantasy into reality.
Director: Michael O’Shea
Writer: Michael O’Shea
Stars: Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine, Jelly Bean
Review by Gilbert Seah
THE TRANSFIGURATION premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes last year, apparently coming out of nowhere just like the film’s odd protagonist, a black bullied teen called Milo (Eric Ruffin).
Milo lives with his brother and they share an odd obsession with vampires. Milo actually drinks blood, as is observed in a very compelling and disturbing but well-shot opening scene set in a public toilet stall. The camera follows Milo as the audience learns more about the little man. He is bullied by other black teens, lives in a small apartment, collects and watches vampire videos, breaks into houses, stores a bag load of cash, drinks blood very few days and leads a non-existent lifestyle. When Milo meets Sophie (Chloe Levine), a white teen neighbour, the two fall in love.
Director O’Shea obviously drew his inspiration from Murnau’s vampire film NOSFERATU. Milo and Sophie are seen watching the 1922 classic NOSFERARU and O’Shea’s film is filled with similar sounding music. When Sophie is asked by Milo what she liked about the film, music was her answer. O’Shea also captures the same creepiness in his film.
The vampire is clearly used as a metaphor for bad people. O’Shea makes the point very clear – in act too clearly, in the one scene at the end of the film when Milo’s brother preaches to him that people in the world also suck blood from each other – figuratively.
O’Shea’s film is not without flaws. The main flaw is that it is only occasionally engaging. It is hard for the audience to connect with a black teen with no life, who breaks into people’s houses and has no redeeming qualities. Thee is also no explanation for the reason he dislikes the TWILIGHT films and only the real serious vampire films. The audience is also supposed to believe that a normal human being can eventually drink blood as a normal way of life.
Despite the flaws, O’Shea can draw the audience into a scene when he wants to. The best examples are the toilet scene at the film’s start and sporadically at various parts of the film. He uses light, sound and edition to create a moment.
The romance between Milo and Sophie works as a first love kind of romance. Milo gives it all up for her while she has reservations after finding out more about him. Newcomer Eric Ruffin is quite young and a risk as O‘Shea’s lead actor. But Ruffin is convincing and a fresh face which are good things.
One has to hand it to O’Shea for trying. But his film misses for its failure to totally engage, with its too weird premise and too obvious metaphor of a human vampire that lives among the living.
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