Saturday, July 08, 2017

Script review - "The Keep" by Michael Mann (1983) (warning: spoilers)

The odd man out in Michael Mann's filmography - this script is a lot easier to understand than the final film. It's a relatively simple story - Germans in 1941 Romania occupy a Keep, unleashing an evil force (Molasar) that starts killing them. An SS officer comes in and makes things worse; a local Jewish professor is tempted to let the evil thing run riot on the Nazis, and a mystery man, Glaeken, turns up from Portugal.

The fact the film's easier to understand doesn't mean it's free of problems. It sets up all this conflict between the Germans and the locals, establishing the contrast between lefty Captain Woermann and nasty SS dude Kaempffer... but this kind of gets thrown away in the second half and the film becomes about Glaeken. Glaeken has this super rushed romance with the Jewish professor's daughter, Eva, which is meant to have big emotional stakes but the relationship is too little too late.

There's neat stuff about Glaeken being Molasar's alter evil, but we don't find out that until towards the very end. And it's never clear what they are - what sort of beings they're supposed to be. It really would have helped if Mann had just said "they're vampires" then we would have known the mythology and gone with it. We've got all this other stuff to absorb.

Also I was unsure why it was a bad thing that Molasar might get out and start killing people. It was during World War Two the holocaust was about to happen. Molosar was against the invaders, not everyone.

Some of the dialogue is pretty ripe and the characters aren't that great - good Nazi, bad Nazi, mystery man, professor, professor's daughter. There are some interesting ideas and the setting is novel.

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