aka Vierges et vampires
aka Caged Virgins
Jean Rollin, 1971
Runtime: 95 min.
Format: Encore DVD
Jean Rollin has remarked that he wrote the script for Requiem for a Vampire in three days. He started with images- two clowns being chased, a woman playing a piano in a field, and the went from there. His approach to writing the script was similar to that of the surrealists in their methods of automatic writing; he just jumped from image to image without censoring his subconscious. Even while shooting, he refused to change anything from his original script, it had come out of his head that way so he insisted on keeping it that way.

Somewhat surprisingly, it turned out fantastic (and not only in the fantastique way). The plot follows two beautiful young girls as they escape from something unknown, and fall into the clutches of a renegade group of individuals protecting the last vampire. There is little to no dialogue for the first hour of the film, another factor that Rollin was very proud of. It's very fast paced, and never really drags, all the while remaining beautiful, mysterious, and a tad melancholic.

I say melancholic because the last vampire himself has accepted the fact that his legacy will soon be over. He tells Marie (played by the always great Marie-Pierre Castel) that he has a secret for her, and his secret is that he will soon die. He admits this fact with a noble sense of defeat. His followers are beastly, except for a woman who plays the piano; she accepts her fate to guard the tomb, suffering the defeat far more heavily than the last vampire himself.
The film, aside from handling the randomly-written screenplay quite congruously, handles quick mood changes very admirably. The film jumps from scenes of playfulness (Michelle taunting the man with her nude body) to tenderness (Maraie sacrificing her virginity in order to save herself from the vampires) to terror (the woman vampire stalking up the stairs) and throughout remains consistent, overall very dreamy.

Aside from the mood, music is more present than in almost any other Rollin feature to date. Instead of the normal ghostly silence that generally haunts most of Rollin's films, almost every scene is backed by Pierre Raph's wonderfully extensive score. In the same way the film itself changes moods rapidly, as does the soundtrack, ranging from psych-rock to piano ballads to Gothic orchestrations.
The film also briefly touches upon the idea of love, as is a regular occurrence throughout Rollin's filmography. The two girls who have run away together love each other with an intense childish naivety; they are, and will always be, best friends. It's not a sexual love, despite a scene earlier in the film where the two playfully fondle each others breasts in bed, it's something far more pure. And, very surprisingly, the girls manage to leave the events while still in their state of naivety, despite having been violated (either by a penis as in Marie's case, or by the vampires bloodsucking, like Michelle).

Overall the film is a very playful instance of Rollin's amazing career, and is one of his best works. It is beautifully shot, with most of the beauty radiating from the two girls, who Rollin finds beautiful ways to frame over and over again. While not as intellectually stimulating as many of Rollin's other films, it's still a remarkable aesthetic experience and carries a naivety of cinema that Rollin himself loved.

Mike Kitchell, 2007