[Fantasia 2023 Short Film Review] TRANSYLVANIE

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, films like TRANSYLVANIE being covered here wouldn’t exist.

The loneliness that comes with childhood is isolating. To cope, the embrace of fiction and makebelieve skyrocket. But when the line between reality and fiction blurs together, it can create a recipe for disaster. Reminiscent of Let The Right One In, Rodrigue Huart’s TRANSYLVANIE explores childhood loneliness under the guise of vampirism. But whether his protagonist is a vampire or not will be the question of the hour all the way to the climactic end.

The short follows Ewa (Katell Varvat) who believes herself to be a vampire. Her obsession runs deep, isolating her from the rest of the kids around her. It makes her a target for bullying. While confident in her vampirism, she is lonely. A local neighborhood boy becomes her fixation, and she yearns to turn him into a companion. However, events transpire that both shock and daze both viewers and characters in the short.

Regardless of how TRANSYLVANIE ends, the impact of the climax and Ewa’s ultimate decision showcases the inherent tragedy laced with loneliness. As a child, Ewa is desperate for a friend, a companion, or someone to show her kindness. In an increasingly soul-crushing world, you can’t help but feel for the young girl as she hopes to find someone that understands her and accepts her.

But there is another side of the coin that is touched upon as well. The neighborhood boy treats Ewa as a sister, and likely thinks little of how his kindness impacts her. Selected as the companion, she thinks little of his wants or desires. Only the end goal – an end to her loneliness. While the ending is haunting, Huart’s focus on the boy’s face, in the end, highlights the resounding impact of her decision. Left in shock, is this the price of kindness in the end?

For newcomer Katell Varvat, she shows incredible depth in her performance. Jumping back and forth between innocence and darkness, her performance makes it nigh impossible to peg down if Ewa is the vampire she claims to be. Huart’s decision to keep things as grounded as possible also lends itself well to this guessing game. Is she just sick in the head like her absentee brother? Or is she truly a creature of the night?

Running for ten minutes, TRANSYLVANIE has the proper pacing to build the character of Ewa and give us a definite idea of who she is. It is a familiar tale of loneliness and vampirism but, by toying around with the audience in making us guess is she or isn’t she, this tragic tale has a particular bite to it. At least, in its final moments of lingering shock.

TRANSYLVANIE had its world premiere at the 2023 Fantasia Film Festival.

Sarah Musnicky
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