It’s unfair to dock a movie simply because of when it was released and what might have come before. But life is unfair and the German comedy Therapy for a Vampire (Der Vampir auf der Couch) enters American theaters in the wake of What We Do in the Shadows and Only Lovers Left Alive. A pity considering Therapy is a funny and smart romp, just not as funny and the former and as smart as the latter.
Set in Vienna, 1932, Therapy for a Vampire finds Count Graf Geza von Közsnöm (Tobias Moretti) on Dr. Sigmund Freud’s couch looking for help in restoring some luster to his 500-year-old marriage. Dr. Freud (Karl Fischer) suggests that Count Graf find a way to help his wife, Gräfin Elsa von Közsnöm (Jeanette Hain), see her reflection — a difficult thing for a vampire to do.
There are many curses associated with being a vampire, but in Therapy, vanity and narcissism rises to the surface. What is a vampire to do when she becomes obsessed with her looks? Looks that she has not seen in centuries. The answer: hire a local painter, Viktor (Dominic Oley), to produce a portrait of Elsa.
But all is not well in the Viktor home as he cannot stop painting his girlfriend, Lucy (Cornelia Ivancan), as he wants to see her and not as she is. Frustrated with the confinements posed on her, Lucy is drawn to the Count, who seemingly promises everything she could want. And once he bites her, transforming her into a vampire, Lucy becomes everything she’s ever wanted.
With a droll sense of humor, Therapy for a Vampire skewers the undead genre by placing two squabbling couples in the middle of it, and a woman who wants to break free of the role imposed on her by the men in her life and the time in which she lives. Once Lucy realizes that Viktor isn’t going to give her what she wants, she gravitates to the Count, only to find out that he has ulterior motives of his own: Lucy will take up his beloved’s mantle. It’s frustrating when you want the world, but the world doesn’t want you. It wants someone like you, but not you.
Therapy for a Vampire is a comedy, one that uses old-school tricks to portray the supernatural aspects of the vampires — reverse photography, crafty cutting and clever framing — and with these techniques, writer/director David Rühm manages to create a magical and attractive world on a fairly low-budget (€6,000,000).
But low budgets and trick photography can’t help Therapy escape the shadows of Only Lovers Left Alive and What We Do in the Shadows. Therapy does have more fun with the imagery — characters exit one side of the frame, only to reappear on a completely incongruous side — and deadpan performances. You may not laugh out loud, but you’ll enjoy the time spent.