Friday, February 12, 2010

The Newborn Dead: Lovecraftian LANGLIENA

By Marla Newborn
LANGLIENA, a short film written, directed and produced by Italian filmmaker Emiliano Ranzani, is subtitled “A Tale of the Macabre.” And a ghastly, gruesome and chilling tale it is. As the film opens, we see a young man telling a grisly but true story into a tape recorder, because otherwise no one would believe the horror he has witnessed. In its simplest sense, one of LANGLIENA’S themes is how curiosity kills the cat. However, as the story unfolds, one can see that there is much more to the story than a childlike moral.

With a running time of only about seven minutes, what makes LANGLIENA so special is the way Ranzani manages to tie in so many Lovecraftian themes. One of these posits that those who come across live, literal manifestations of the incomprehensible are likely to go mad, and the theme of forbidden knowledge also echoes throughout the film. Ranzani explains his vision: “LANGLIENA is the sum of many images and sensations that have been roaming in my head for quite a while: blades rusted by dried blood, and the sticky smell of rotting corpses. I guess I’ve spent too many nights watching, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, HELLRAISER and Lucio Fulci’s HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY. LANGLIENA was basically another way for me to put those types of images on the screen.

“I’ve always been a die-hard fan of H.P. Lovecraft,” he continues, “ever since I encountered his work in the high-school library, where I had to stay in order to skip religion classes. The story structure of LANGLIENA is an obvious nod to the master's work: it’s a small-scale version of ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ and ‘Dagon,’ in a way. While the concept goes all the way back to the Arabian Nights and similar folklore, the ghoul itself, as I’ve depicted it, is a Lovecraftian one, the same breed of corpse-eating demon described in ‘Pickman’s Model’ and ‘The Dream-Quest of the Unknown Kadath.’

“I’ve always loved the idea of a monster being scary and disturbing due to its mere existence, rather than being a direct threat to someone’s life. These creatures are like a hideous, fat and hairy spider staring at you with its eight eyes inside a dark cellar. Unfortunately, you can’t make a feature film about them—at least not a straight horror movie; something along the line of NEKROMANTIK might work. But that’s typical of Lovecraft’s work: Most of the things he wrote about are conceptual and difficult to film.”

Ranzani has been working to put his own conceptions of horror on the screen for some time now. “I started cranking out sloppy short movies around 2003, learning from my mistakes,” he recalls. “Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m a true filmmaker right now. I’m just trying. I never saw it as something glamorous, and I don’t think my choice has been conscious. Unfortunately for those who care about me, I’ve always been a fanatic, and movies, despite the current state of cinema, happen to be the tool I fell in love with.”

Having crafted such a haunting expression with LANGLIENA, I had to know what drew Ranzani toward horror. “Like many others,” he replies, “I’ve always felt and still feel a strange and strong attraction to the genre. I guess no one can really explain why we get drawn into horror, but that’s part of the charm.” See the trailer for LANGLIENA below.


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