It’s a Love Story—Involving Vampires: The Cinematic Trope of the Wedded Bloodsucker
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In a recent interview, Jim Jarmusch describes his 2013 film Only Lovers Left Alive as a love story that involves vampires. Independent filmmakers Claire Denis (Trouble Every Day, 2001) and Spike Lee (Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, 2015) refer to their films focusing on blood addicts in married relationships in a similar way. This prompts questions about the trope of the wedded vampire and how a creature that is archetypally solitary, predatory and, above all else, driven by a rapacious need for blood is depicted in intimate, long-term relationships. This chapter traces the cinematic origins of the wedded vampire, which can be found in Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931), and later, in a decidedly more integrated form, in Robert Siodmak’s melodramatic horror Son of Dracula (1943). However, the central focus of the chapter is postmodern film texts first emerging in the 1970s: a period that marked a distinct shift in vampire representations, particularly in terms of narrative structure, allegorical meaning and subjective alignment. Focusing on the films Ganja & Hess (Bill Gunn, 1973), Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, Trouble Every Day and Only Lovers Left Alive, the chapter examines how themes of agency and desire are portrayed in these films—particularly the way the demarcations between predator and prey, sanction and violation, craving and satisfaction, powerfulness and helplessness are negotiated.
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