When you think of vampire mythologies represented in movies, there are a few that come to mind, with some being better than others. What we haven’t seen much in these type of movies is a deeper look into the motifs that are attached the mythology. If we look past the seduction and immortality, the idea of isolation is patiently waiting to be recognized. In Michael O’Shea’s new film Transfiguration, not only do we take a peek behind the curtain of loneliness, but also how obsession can have deeper meanings in our lives.
Milo (Eric Ruffin) is a teen who secludes himself from others while seeking refuge in his fascination with classic vampire lore. As an awkward teen, one who distances himself not only from his rough neighborhood but also from his caregiver brother, Milo seeks connections from others is a more violent way, using his education of vampires as a tool. However, when he meets his neighbor Sophie (Chloe Levine), things for Milo begin to change.
Vampire centric stories have been around for centuries, but there are not many who have tapped into the neglected ideas of isolation like Transfiguration. While it may be the first of its kind, it’s a logical connection to make. This is a monster who seeks life by taking others, and that matches perfectly with Milo’s want for a meaningful connection. Milo aggressively takes a physical connection from others, becoming a monster himself in creating an intimate exchange between both parties. He has segregated himself so much from his daily life that to him it makes more sense to seek out other’s demise than to take a step back and look at the people around him.
From the very beginning of the film, the theme of isolation was ever present. The visuals focus on Milo in his daily life, but he is hardly joined on screen by anything significant. We don’t see his teacher’s face or the other kids at school, allowing for the audience to truly see how Milo feels, alone. The isolation wasn’t because of his weird exterior or his hobbies, because we never see him in public in any other way than just awkward. Milo is not the kid who ostracizes himself by his weird actions, but instead is alone because he truly feels detached in a world of constant simulation.
The theme of isolation was palpable because of the beautiful cinematography by DP Sung Rae Cho. The camera movement created such a detached world, it allowed the audience to fully understand Milo’s blithe. The expansive vistas and the lonely framed scenes connected instantly with the theme. The camera allowed the characters and their situations to breath in a wide open space, eliminating the hustle of normality.
On several occasions it was as if the camera was a silent witness into the lives of Milo and Sophie, hiding behind far away scenery. These hidden shots created a natural motif in an unnatural relationship. Whether it was orchestrated or guerrilla filmmaking, both work to create an impressive aesthetic.
None of these would be possible, however, if it wasn’t for the calculated and true acting talent of Ruffin. His ability to present Milo in a way as an awkward loner and not a devious outsider was the deciding factor in the enjoyment of the film. Milo isn’t the most enduring character, but Ruffin created him in way that allowed sympathy to be a logical emotion to associate with him. The subdued vitality of this world matched with Ruffin’s delicate portrayal and has come together to form a brutal ending, not physically brutal, but emotional.
Transfiguration is an impressive first film by O’Shea, a film that touches on a need for isolation and also a desire for connection that is not typical of a vampire interest story. The slow melodic scenes come together to create an introspective story about relationships that in our own lives are easy to throw aside. The circle of life is not always beautiful.
Transfiguration has two more SXSW 2017 showings:
March 13th, Alamo Ritz 1, 9:45pm
March 17th, Alamo Ritz 2, 2:15pm
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Strand Releasing