Do you think there are real vampires? An unusual question, especially when asked in a vampire movie. But Julian Radlmaier has made a vampire film with “Blutsucker” that has never been seen before. It is about the figments of human imagination, their relationship to reality and the question of where they lead.

The image of the blood-sucking undead has some ambivalences. A participant in a “Marx-critical Marx reading circle” also notes this in the opening scene, pointing to a few passages in “Capital” in which Marx uses the language of the horror novel: “Capital is dead work that only comes to life like a vampire by absorbing living labour”. Sucking out as a metaphor for exploitation?

“Blutsucker” shows the dangerous autonomy of such a metaphor – right up to the phantasm of a harmonious social body being sucked dry by the parasitic stranger. It is a lesson that is as intelligent as it is imaginative, about the deadly danger of believing in the letter, about the menace of an attitude of mind driven by aggressive desires that no longer recognizes the difference between an image and reality. The question in the film is not just whether real vampires exist, but what the intent is with such a belief.

Things are complicated by the fact that there are real vampires in “Blutsucker”, who in turn put the myth into the world that a plague of Chinese fleas was to blame for the mysterious bite wounds on the workers in the area. And then a vampire film is shot, in which a made-up Chinese bites a real vampire as a film vampire, which is how the comedy of mistaken identity with a tragic ending really gets going.

“Vampires only exist in the cinema,” says the blood-thirsty Octavia, played by Lilith Stangenberg. Then she throws herself into dramatic silent film poses or sinks behind the newspaper like the legendary Max Schreck once did in “Nosferatu – Eine Symphonie des Grauens” (1922), when the bloodsucker came to the screen. And one of the really big questions of the vampire film is also asked: How do the bloodsuckers actually deal with dental care?

In the very last scene of “Blutsauger” the secret of dental hygiene is revealed: regular brushing of teeth, always nice from red to white. And also in the preceding two hours something unusual for a vampire film happens. Alexandre Koberidze plays Lyowushka, who ended up in 1928 in the workers’ paradise of the Soviet Union in the tranquil holiday paradise of the Baltic Sea. He pretends to be a baron, but in reality he is a Trotsky actor in Sergei Eisenstein’s “October”, canceled by Stalin. He got the role thanks to a special dental treatment by the famous director, but it didn’t bring him any luck. Now the dreamed way out is called Hollywood. But the way from Moscow to California is long and leads through Germany.

So Lyowushka ends up with Octavia Flambo-Jansen, the heiress to a cosmetics empire. A person who is as graceful as she is unworldly, lost in her romantic daydreams. She indulges in all sorts of new fashions that seem rather strange among vampires and especially in the big bourgeoisie. She reads Proust, smokes hashish, and calls her servant Jakob (Alexander Herbst) a “personal assistant”, to whom the mistress’s request to use the first form of address is as regular as it is unsuccessful, like the “sit down!” in Billy Wilder’s “One, two , three” (1961). She wants the false baron to explain communism to the workers in her factory “from the victim’s perspective” in order to curb communist activities. He, in turn, wants to get the means for the crossing from her, and then a few kisses, which then inevitably bite.

Octavia is the center of the film. Ljowuschka and Jakob succumb to the erotic attraction, which in turn the brutal-snooty Bonin (Daniel Hoesl) only pretends to feel while he has business on his mind alone. The aunt (Corinna Harfouch) has little understanding for Octavia’s affectations. In tow she has the factory director and mayor Doctor Humburg (Andreas Döhler), who talks about public hygiene like the health ministers who usually only get stuck on Twitter.

It’s as if Rainer Werner Fassbinder meets demure analytical film art with Wes Anderson: a world full of bizarre characters, humorous and fairytale-like, but at the same time realistic and socially critical. Radlmaier is interested in the narrative possibilities of the film, the imaginative, as it is in fairy tales. So it doesn’t bother that “Blutsauger” is set in the 1920s, but a Coke can also finds its way into the picture. The filmmaker, born in 1984, who is also responsible for directing and editing the book, embodies a new type of auteur cinema, political and poetic at the same time.

With a wink, Radlmaier calls his film a Marxist vampire comedy. An unusual genre name. And anyway, isn’t genre character conventional, stuffy, old-fashioned? Conversely, one could ask what is actually communicated throughout the genre. The media theorist Friedrich Kittler did exactly that with “Dracula’s Legacy” at the beginning of the 1980s and thus raised the vampires from the area of ​​neglected trash to the spheres of academic attention. “Blutsucker” plays on so many levels that it’s almost amazing that it doesn’t fall apart completely. With all its twists and turns, film is also a school of signs and vision.