You know how we talk about how George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road could totally work as a silent film with just the soundtrack? I’m beginning to think that there’s a thread of that sort of film in the 1980s, a time when the looming inevitability of music videos was about the permanently change the medium. A time of emphasis on the visual.
It’s hard to not invoke MTV (which launched in 1981), because the first 10 minutes or so are essentially a long-form music video for “Disco Group” (as they’re credited in the scroll) Bauhaus performing “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” It also announces at the same time that this is a very self-aware vampire film (one that never, ever, utters the word). Indeed, this may be the first “meta” vampire film (a film that constantly references its own genre in a self-conscious manner).
Anyway, returning to the silent film idea, unlike MM:FR, it is not meant to be seen in black & white. This film inhabits the 1980s, you would not mistake it for being a 1970s film with its auteurs integrating classic world cinema. This is a film about images. Everything is a tableau, everything is about what you see. Every piece of background is shown, and not given much exposition. You are expected to infer from the image, and you are purposely kept out of any internal monologues.
Director Tony Scott (brother of Ridley, who would also go on to make a set of definitive 80s films) would go on to do “Top Gun” right after this film, and while one film is all darkness, and the next largely sunshine and blue skies, you can see how his style and direction would plot the cinematic course of the next decade. As such, I would argue that “The Hunger” is a far more important film than some would credit.
Oh, and it stars David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve, and Susan Sarandon. Though you probably knew that. Also, the American Goth scene imprinted on this film like an orphaned kitten, but that’s probably another story.
If you haven’t seen this film in awhile, do dig it up. The Blu Ray is beautiful, though bare-bones when it comes to special features.
Last year (2014) I contributed a chapter to the academic anthology “Pop Pagans: Paganism and Popular Music.” That chapter, “The Darker Shade of Pagan: The Emergence of Goth,” explores the cross-pollination of the Goth subculture, and the modern Pagan religious movement.
“The late 1970s and early ’80s spawned an insular and self-consciously Pagan folk music scene, centered around festivals and conventions, but that wasn’t the only expression of a modern Pagan music to emerge. “Goth,” a unique musical subculture that developed during the post-punk era in Britain, provided a parallel creative environment.”
The me who wrote this chapter, well over a year before it came out in print, seems like a very different person today, and I’m still amazed that I managed to write something that passed academic muster. I’m quite proud of the achievement, and I hope to publish the entire chapter online at some point in the future.