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Grade: BEternal (2004)

Director: Wilhelm Liebenberg, Federico Sanchez

Stars: Conrad Pla, Caroline Neron

Release Company: Regent Releasing

MPAA Rating: NR

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Liebenberg: Eternal

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Eternal is the first feature film project for Wilhelm Liebenberg and Federico Sanchez, who produced, directed, and wrote the screenplay. Jointly they have previous backgrounds in comic books, advertising, art design, and modelling and much of this is on display in their first film. If photogenic locales and high production values rank high on your movie viewing criteria, Eternal may give you some visual enjoyment—Montreal and Venice provide seductive backgrounds for an impressive gothic mansion and bizarre Carnaval celebration respectively, and some of the women look like they just stepped out of a magazine ad. Unfortunately, there's not much else to recommend in this film. The photography only creates a sense of suspense that something worth seeing may eventually appear—only to disappoint as the exploitive project proceeds.

Supposedly based on a true story that is eventually referenced by a Venetian shopkeeper, who tells of fifteen century Hungarian vampire countess who bathed in the fresh blood of numerous young victims to maintain her skin complexion, Eternal remains too incredulous to be taken seriously. If you examine the film's official site, you can find more information on the source material that gives the film the names of its main characters—namely Erszebet Bathory, whose criminal prosecutor declared during the 1611 trial:

"Erszebet, you are like a wild animal. You do not deserve to brethe the air on earth, nor see the light of the Lord. You shall disappear from this world and never reappear in it again. The shadows will envelop you and you will find time to repent your bestial life."

Had the filmmakers worked more diligently to tie in its historic background within the narrative, the film would have gained more credibility with the audience it currently seeks. The official website material comes across more like an afterthought instead of an integral component; besides, its initial page looks not that much different from Internet porn sites with its pair of "sensuous" lesbians poised for action.

Its marketing strategy confounds as well since the distributors have pushed the film like an arthouse indie project, yet its narrative thread and acting is as amateurishly constructed as most pornographic films. Since the plot revolves around the lustful quest of a lesbian vampire, who mysteriously has slurped blood under the radar of the Montreal police despite being pursued and located by Interpol, all the filmmakers need do is add more explicit sex to their tawdry scenes—and voila! A potential moneymaker in a more appropriate genre.

On the other hand, the filmmakers do seem to want to make a respectable art film since they attempt minimal character development with its lead character—a tough Montreal detective named Raymond Pope (Conrad Pla), whose wife becomes the first victim while Pope is simultaneously screwing his partner's wife. Connecting her with the evil Elizabeth (Caroline Néron) is a modern method for reclusive souls to meet—an Internet chat room. But Elizabeth's first lesbian seduction encounters are always the final one, so soon dective Pope is hot on her trail when he's not engaged in hot illicit sex himself. He's good to his young son, however, and does seem to care that his wife has vanished—so that is designed to balance his course, rough nature.

When he's framed for murdering his partner's wife, including concrete forensic evidence, the Montreal police inexplicably allow him to roam freely without being arrested. And even more astounding is his sudden appearance in Venice. Just how does he get out of Canada when he's the prime and only suspect in a bloody murder?

But that's really only a brief symptom of what ails this film; it definitely comes across as a first time project. If you're a mindless and lustful teenage boy who doesn't give a flip about plot and character development, you may enjoy the brief lesbian sequences and get off on the slasher scenes (even when they are performed so perfunctorily). And if you just want a glimpse of old Montreal or a brief encounter with Venice, you may momentarily enjoy the locales. Just fast forward the tape to those selected scenes for maximum pleasure.
 


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