Breaking away from the conventional vampire narrative, a Canadian French-language debut introduces a perplexing scenario for a teenage girl caught between societal expectations and her personal desires. Titled “Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person,” the film, which earned Ariane Louis-Seize the best director award at Venice Days, offers a contemporary gothic tale, a coming-of-age narrative, and a comedy-drama rolled into one. Sara Montpetit and Félix-Antoine Bénard lead the cast, portraying the fanged protagonist, Sasha, and the willing participant in suicidal endeavors, Paul. The film, lauded for its “strong directorial vision,” recently featured in the main competition at the Thessaloniki Film Festival.
Louis-Seize, co-writer alongside Christine Doyon, delves into the intricacies of the human condition through what critic Jessica Kiang describes as a “good-natured, dark-tinged, teen rom-com.” The film masterfully blends gothic elements and humor, drawing inspiration from diverse genres like mumblecore, coming-of-age, and vampire tales. Louis-Seize emphasizes the term “playful,” expressing her desire to use the vampire story as a playground to explore profound human themes.
The collaboration between Louis-Seize and Doyon unfolded over Zoom during the pandemic, resulting in a script that introduces a unique central character—a 62-year-old vampire masquerading as a teenage girl. The film draws parallels between the struggles of vampires and teenagers, utilizing the metaphor of the “Other” to connect the two experiences. Louis-Seize reflects on the teenage years as a period of simultaneous fear and excitement, emphasizing the importance of pushing boundaries to discover oneself.
Having focused on women protagonists in her short films, Louis-Seize appreciates working with young actors, finding their openness and connection appealing. The film’s success in maintaining a tonal balance is attributed to the on-screen chemistry between the lead characters, Sasha and Paul. Louis-Seize sought actors who embodied the right blend of awkwardness, humor, and intuition, shaping the characters during extensive rehearsals.
In Sasha, Louis-Seize envisions a relatable female lead devoid of patriarchal stereotypes. She appreciates female characters breaking down barriers and embracing vulnerability without adhering to traditional male character traits. Despite coupling two outsiders in “Humanist Vampire,” the director insists it’s not a conventional love story but rather a portrayal of soulmates, emphasizing a thirst for human connection rather than physical desire.
Louis-Seize’s future projects continue to explore relationship dynamics. She is co-writing a French-language feature based on a contemporary theater play, focusing on individuals choosing to disappear from their old lives. While maintaining a tragic undertone, the characters infuse humor into the narrative. Additionally, the director is in the early stages of crafting an English-language film, keeping the plot details under wraps.
The Thessaloniki Film Festival, where “Humanist Vampire” recently screened, ran from Nov. 2 to 12.