An undead count seeks out the assistance of Sigmund Freud in a nudge-nudge Austrian monster comedy that's all anemic kitsch.
Back before “The Sopranos” — well, actually, just as “The Sopranos” was midway through its first season — a movie comedy came out that presented the idea of a gangster who goes to see a psychiatrist as just about the most nutty, screw-loose hi-larious concept in the world. Even after six seasons of “The Sopranos,” the notion behind the Robert De Niro/Billy Crystal comedy “Analyze This” still sounds kind of funny, and it’s no trick to apply the same basic joke to certain other…professions. A gladiator seeing a psychiatrist. A superhero seeing a psychiatrist. Donald Trump seeing a psychiatrist. (Well, okay, there are limits to plausibility.) So how about a vampire seeing a psychiatrist — or, better yet, a vampire going to see the OP (original psychiatrist): the man himself, Sigmund Freud? Are you laughing yet? Or, if you’re one of the few people who will go to the new Austrian movie “Therapy for a Vampire,” are you spitting up the comedy equivalent of a blood clot?
We’re in Vienna in 1932, and the monster in question who seeks out Freud’s help is Count Geza von Közsnöm, a Romanian bloodsucker who is bored, bored, bored with his vampire wife, Elsa (Jeanette Hain), because the two have been married for, like, centuries. Can anyone relate? (Nudge, nudge.) Count Geza is played by Tobias Moretti, who in profile does look a bit like Bela Lugosi, but mostly he resembles a debauched Mike Wallace. He’s a very civilized and depressed aristocrat, who has become so jaded by his lifestyle that he has an assistant go out and draw blood from victims, which he then guzzles out of a flask. Dr. Freud (Karl Fischer) has no idea that he’s treating an undead neurotic, and therapy, as it turns out, doesn’t do the count much good. He’s too much in thrall to his lost love from hundreds of years ago, who he thinks has been reincarnated in Lucy (Cornelia Ivancan), a bohemian model who’s having relationship issues. Her artist boyfriend, Viktor (Dominic Oley), insists on painting her as a blonde — and, indeed, seems to be getting ready to go full “Vertigo” on her.
If a diagram were the same thing as a script, then “Therapy for a Vampire” might be a smashingly silly lark. But as written and directed by Daniel Ruehl, the film is a blueprint of mild anemic kitsch. It’s an undead comedy without the blood of experience coursing through its veins. The count and his wife, who you might say are at each other’s throats, each pair off with one half of the young couple. Elsa, whose undead style consists of wearing a Louise Brooks bob (though it looks more like a Louise Brooks wig purchased in a costume shop), latches onto Viktor and insists that he paint her portrait so that she can see what she looks like. (Mirrors weren’t doing the trick.) And the count woos Lucy with that whole “Come and be a creature of the night! You will live forever!” routine. The best thing in the movie is Cornelia Ivancan. She’s got a real bloom — a glow of misbehavior. No one will let Lucy just be who she is (Viktor wants to change her hair color, the count wants to change her mortality), and “Therapy for a Vampire,” to the extent that it has a theme, is a feminist anthem. If only it weren’t such a cheesy, thinly written, badly lit one.
The notion of an old vampire couple coping with the anomie of the ages owes an obvious debt to Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” (2014), which was an infinitely more textured — and funnier — movie. The way this all plays out in “Therapy for a Vampire” brings it closer to being a bloodsucker version of “Escape (The Piña Colada Song).” Call it “The Plasma Colada Song.”