Ultraviolette and the Blood-Spitters Gang is awaiting a UK release date.
Hospitals or asylums have historically been a dramatic setting that audiences love to sink their teeth into. Packed with a backstory that’s cloaked in mystique and a healthy dose of oddity, both documentary and fictitious narrative formats have succeeded when utilising its unseemly charm. Ultraviolette and the Blood-Spitters Gang embodies the sentiment beautifully, though it’s unusual straddling of disparate filmmaking leaves a confusing last impression.
Filmmaker Robin Hunzinger uncovered a box of hidden correspondence between his late grandmother Emma and seeming stranger Marcelle. The findings tell their story as schoolgirl sweethearts in the 1920s before, parting ways as Marcelle succumbs to tuberculosis. From the confines of treatment, Marcelle paints a vivid picture of rebellion, dubbing her confidantes as the “Blood-Spitters Gang”.
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Within Ultraviolette’s opening seconds, its visual artistry is laid out in full force. Archived footage used throughout holds a haunting beauty, with the narrative subtext highlighting the luxury of the moving image. Heartwarming memories of childhood frivolity resonate with all with a French film noir tone to its structure. The painting to ominous music effectively achieves the foreboding of what’s to come. Quickly, archived footage becomes intercut with family snapshots and occasional frames that unreasonably stray from black and white—leaving the viewer unsure where fact ends, and fiction begins.
A forced poeticism is felt throughout Marcelle’s reimagined correspondence, almost alluding to a parody of the timely period drama. Ultraviolette’s love-hate rhetoric is almost Shakespearean, making for a dramatic recalling of magnified emotions. Much like any film, the overall effects will depend entirely on subjective taste—though there’s a more prominent sense of being able to lean into its format. Instead of committing to one structural strategy and sticking to it, Ultraviolette chooses to encompass it all, which often doesn’t sit cohesively.
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Because of this, it’s challenging to connect to Emma and Marcelle’s haunting story emotionally. Narrative focus shifts from 3rd to 1st person, taking you out of the moments which the narrative hook so desperately clings to. Almost preachy in its overall tone, there’s a heightened intensity of feelings from the hospital confines—though it never truly feels like this wanton romance is reciprocated. With such heavy bouts of romanticism, it’s difficult to tell how much of the relationship was fictionally fabricated; the audience is forced to process information from an unnecessary amount of distance.
If there was such a thing as too much silence between two people, Ultraviolette and the Blood-Spitters Gang’s lack of noise speaks volumes. There’s a lot to continuously take in—from alluring visual scenes drowned in water to the extreme emphasis on needing to seduce. As facets from all touchpoints of life move swiftly past the screen, the heightened moments of intense feeling are balanced by an overwhelming question of what the film is achieving. Many directorial choices feel overtly placed for no reason, leading to doubts about how genuine the depiction of such a sobering story is. It’s always a challenge conveying a story with so many pieces missing, and on this occasion, it doesn’t quite land.
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A touching story that doesn’t quite let audiences into its heart, Ultraviolette and the Blood-Spitters Gang is a beautifully haunting picture with many underlying issues. While some will instantaneously be able to connect to letters long lost, a wider mainstream audience may have more of a problem. Embodying Marcelle’s continued sense of invincibility, the sporadic lack of cohesion ultimately hinders her story from being accessed in a befitting way.
A touching story that doesn’t quite let audiences into its heart, Ultraviolette and the Blood-Spitters Gang is a beautifully haunting picture with many underlying issues.