A milk-like substance known as Esmakra is slowly seeping its way through the city and into the bodies of the people. This unknown drug was created by the vampires to allow them to control not only the bodies of their victims, but their minds as well.
Blind buys and arthouse/experimental movies is a dangerous concoction. It's style that is one of the hardest to get right or can be one of the most polarizing styles for an audience. A lot of people love "Begotten" and it is probably one of the more sought after titles, meanwhile I think it's a heaping pile of shit because, well, it is. But back to my original point, with arthouse/experimental movies you genuinely have no idea what you're going to get in comparison to blind buying something like a horror movie. I bought the German experimental film "Diabolique" (not to be confused with Henri-Georges Clouzot's 1955 movie by the same name) because the cover was appealing, the write-up made it sound interesting and the teaser trailer was curiously vague. Unfortunately, this is one of those times where the blind buy didn't pay off.
In the city, Esmakra, a milk-like substance being given to humans by vampires in order to control them, is rapidly spreading. The vampires are soon able to leave the shadows and are able to wander as they please while manipulating their victims to order to help spread their controls and ideals to the masses.
Regretfully, that is a superficial plot write-up that doesn't really work well to describe what the movie is about since I'm not even sure myself what "Diabolique" was suppose to be about. Experimental musician and filmmaker Cosmotropia de Xam (through his company Mater Suspiria Vision) released this movie and labeled it as the first narrative piece for the company. Now, I don't want to say there was no narration to the movie, but if there was one, it was completely lost in a movie that wanted to be experimental and artistic, but didn't know how.
And I don't like saying that since with these kind of movies it is clearly more about artistic expression than entertainment and art always boils down to personal preference. However, when I was watching "Diabolique", it felt like it lacked direction or a general reason to what it was doing and what it was showing. Now the movie has a great style to it; I don't know what Cosmotropia de Xam used to make the movie with but it replicated the look of 70s and 80s Super8 cult-experimental movies quite well. And going through some of Cosmotropia's work that's available online, there is no question that they have perfected the look and style that they're going for.
So it is essentially style-over-substance but with an arthouse movie that's not necessarily a bad thing. The stylization was definitely there but fundamentally it felt like it lacked any substance and often had an unintentional feeling of being disjointed. Each scene didn't really connect from the previous or to the next; an overall theme, narrative or direction seemed absent from a lot of the movie as well. And sadly, each scene had a formuliac structure to it: a character holds a pose, often staring into the camera or off into the distance, while the camera moved freely around them (often zooming in and out as well). On top of it, some narration was overlaid on a few of these scenes with such ridiculous lines that it made "Diabolique" feel even more ridiculous and preposterous.
How am I suppose to take a scene, or this movie, seriously when several minutes are spent doing nothing other than watching a character smoke a cigarette (while the camera bounces around) while the line, "Aggression is misleading. Misleading is aggression." is played over and over again for its duration? The answer is simple: I can't.
Then again, who am I? Cosmotropia de Xam clearly had an idea and I would even say a philosophy behind "Diabolique" but for me and my opinion, for what it's worth, it was not executed well. Perhaps the ideas got lost in the movie's own eccentricity. Regardless, "Diabolique" felt empty, meaningless and pointless, if I'm going to be completely honest. As I said, it had a great look to it but that's all it had. An arthouse movie can exist and function as just a visual experience and while Cosmotropia's movie had a great style, the visuals overall were rather empty and uninteresting. Often just characters sitting or standing in a location while the camera moved. I'm sorry, but that's just not enough.
I even tried to look at "Diabolique" as more of a performance art piece rather than a arthouse movie but it still didn't work. The visuals weren't there, there was no emotion to it, no atmosphere, no narrative. Nothing. To me, "Diabolique" is a movie that represents everything that is wrong with arthouse and experimental movies. When people use the derogatory phrase "student film" they are thinking about these kind of movies, and sadly, they kind of justify the stereotype. And it is a shame to say that since the point of an arthouse movie is artistic expression - it's not suppose to follow the usual movie-structure. However, there still needs to be something there. Something to give it substance or at least make the experience of watching it worthwhile.
With that being said, there will undoubtedly be those who enjoy "Diabolique" and Cosmotropia de Xam's work. Just not me. "Diabolique" is ultimately a movie that's derivative of many different things and the general idea of what a arthouse movie is, but doesn't actually know how to be one of those movies. It's missing many things that allow those movies to work.