Phoenix Film Festival 2017: The Transfiguration

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The Transfiguration tells the story of a troubled young boy named Milo who has a fascination with vampires. He has a collection of old vampire movies on video tapes. And when he meets a young girl much like himself, they even discuss the merits of Twilight against other vampire fare. But all is not what it seems.

Reading the description of this I thought I was going into a traditional vampire flick, but it becomes clear pretty quickly that this is so much more than that. Like I said earlier, Milo is a troubled young boy, and when I say troubled, when we first meet him he is sucking the blood out of a stranger in a bathroom stall. He also has some real world problems: both of his parents are dead, and he lives with his veteran brother (who has problems of his own) in the projects of New York City. While it’s clear that both parents are dead, it becomes clear that the both him and his brother are trying to grasp the loss of is their mom, who we learn later committed suicide. Milo’s brother copes (or doesn’t) by watching TV on the couch all day, while Milo himself has reverted to killing strangers and drinking their blood, much like a vampire.

The Transfiguration rides this fine line of “is he or isn’t he?” But a few key, blink and you’ll miss them moments reveal that vampirism is just a metaphor for religion. There is a picture of Jesus on their apartment wall and Milo and his new girlfriend discuss the topic of religion. They also discuss what makes a vampire a vampire, and Milo makes it clear to her that he doesn’t think a vampire can kill itself, which he firmly believes himself to be. Milo is constantly picked on and tormented by kids and the gangs that inhabit their building and as things get too much for Milo he begins to look for a way out, but believing “vampires” can’t kill themselves he needs an alternative.

I like to refer to this as a lightbulb movie. Meaning that once you’ve seen the revelation at the end, the entire movie makes sense. In this case it’s rather heart breaking because you realize that he has been searching and planning for this for a long time. It also makes me feel kind of bad because I found myself at points thinking how silly he was for acting in those ways. In the end, The Transfiguration is a unique and ultimately interesting look at what it is to deal with loss, grief, and suicide.

 

Synopsis: An official selection at the Cannes Film Festival, writer/director Michael O’Shea’s debut feature The Transfiguration follows troubled teen Milo who hides behind his fascination with vampire lore. When he meets the equally alienated Sophie, the two form a bond that begins to challenge Milo’s dark obsession, blurring his fantasy into reality. A chilling portrait of violence, The Transfiguration is an atmospheric thriller set against the grit of New York City.

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Jim Lincoln (The Film Department)

A man of mystery and power, whose power is exceeded only by his mystery. Writer of things. Watcher of stuff. Quoter of movies. Master of puppets.

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