Isolated from the outside world, fifteen-year-old Lara (Hannah Rae) lives in seclusion on a vast country estate with her father and strict governess Miss Fontaine (Jessica Raine). Late one evening, a mysterious carriage crash brings a young girl into their home to recuperate. Lara immediately becomes enchanted by this strange visitor who arouses her curiosity and awakens her burgeoning desires.
This atmospheric coming-of-age tale is inspired by the 1872 Gothic vampire novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.
BONUS SHORT FILM
Directed by Jonathan Bentovim and Emily Harris
Italian with English subtitles
A couple’s daily routine on their farm is shattered after a chance meeting with a Scottish tourist who tells them about two buildings that have just collapsed in New York.
- "It’s about the allure of the unknown, the forbidden, about discovering yourself and finding a strange solace in danger. Sensual, poetic, dark, and gothic, Carmilla eclipses Twilight in every aspect."
- "Lingnau and Rae create plenty of heat in their scenes together, nicely balanced by the chill of Raine's performance...."
- "CARMILLA is beautiful – every frame looks like it’s shot at golden hour, with soft warm sun almost seeming to glow through the cast. CARMILLA oozes sensuality, but not to the male gaze. CARMILLA is actively feminine and feminist – even the most racy of moments focuses more on breath on skin and the heat of bodies than it does on breasts or lips meeting. This film alone should be a poster child for allowing women to make films about women – it shows, and it makes all the difference in the world. Young love is the ultimate theme of CARMILLA, but the deep, dark undertones of vampirism and something almost satanic color what could be a simple and almost silly love story into something serious, poetic, and piercingly beautiful. 10/10 stars"
- "Alternating between candle-lit interiors and sun-dappled gardens, Carmilla perfects the experience not just of first love, but of the heady excitement of being completely bewitched by someone new; as cinematographer Michael Wood (Let Me Go) relays in the feature’s most expressive, atmospheric touch, it’s hazy, ethereal and almost hyper-real. Indeed, as Lara and Carmilla gravitate towards each other in both infatuated dreams and stolen moments, and as Miss Fontaine’s suspicions increase, Harris always finds the right visual language to convey the movie’s simmering sentiments. "
- "DoP Michael Wood makes glorious use of a summery English scenery and candlelit interiors for the beguiling sapphic ‘love story’ that certainly has its moments delicately evoked by the infatuated duo...."
- "[A] complex, enchanting mystery which draws you in and leaves you obsessing over every last detail. "
- "It portrays its central relationship as playful, sensual and exciting rather than driven by plain lust and is all the more an affecting tale as a result, while the performances from its young leads are mesmerising in their raw empathy."
- "Aesthetically, Carmilla is gorgeous, Blood reds on pale backgrounds are used to great effect, and the candlelit cinematography controls exactly what one can see – and what one thinks might be lurking in the shadows – at any time. The uniformly strong performances lean into this dread. Hannah Rae employs a blank face through much of Lara’s macabre imaginings, heightening the sense of unease. Jessica Raine is another standout, keeping Miss Fontaine’s cruel superstitions grounded in a genuine love for her charge – though neither Raine nor Harris excuse her actions."
- "Stemming directly from the original text and thriving in its gloomy setting is Emily Harris’ 2019 adaptation, a wistful yet sensuous debut feature by the British director. Carmilla proves to be a successful adaptation that will appeal to anyone looking for some unearthly shivers, or a coming-of-age story where being conscious of one’s own sexuality takes centre stage."
- "It feels like it’s been a few years since we had a good old fashioned Victorian horror film.... So the moody, intelligent Carmilla (inspired by the gothic novel by Sheridan Le Fanu) is a welcome addition to the genre—not to mention a queer one! The movie is brimming with interesting motivations and relationships, and keeps you involved all the way through its poignant finale."
- "Director/writer Emily Harris whips up an intoxicating affair between two women in Carmilla, as she takes her turn at adapting the 1872 Gothic novella by Sheridan Le Fanu. Harris takes a discerning stab at the book, with a sensual tale of first love and sexual awakenings packed full of beguiling and provocative imagery."
- "Like Le Fanu, Harris’s keen sense for Gothic atmosphere is both sumptuous and menacing, often relying on the power of suggestion to build the tension around Carmilla’s true identity and purpose. Her use of gauzy, almost impressionist, light is particularly effective, imbuing the film with a diffuse and watery texture, as is the distinctive colour palette, which trades between daytime pastels and washed-out earth tones and a candelit tenebrism that evokes Derek Jarman’s and Peter Greenaway’s period films Caravaggio and Nightwatching and Lucile Hadžihalilović’s Innocence. Additionally, the pointillist sound design accentuates each movement and gesture onscreen, from the scurry of bugs to the buttering of toast, conveying something of Lara’s spine-shivering perspective as she recognizes in Carmilla her own unquenchable desires. The result is an adaptation less about the horrors of the unknown and more about the supernatural pleasures of love and sexuality – and the threat that such passions pose to the domestic and social order. Harris’s Carmilla is perhaps one of the most febrile, inventive and truest in spirit to Le Fanu’s original story, while it avoids the baroque clichés that have persistently separated the vampire subgenre from its Romantic roots. (To the director’s further credit, it should also be noted that the film was a largely female-driven project, from its women producers, mostly female cast and heads of department.) Her Carmilla is neither a succubus nor a sex kitten, but a spirited young woman whose embodiment of nature and sapphic desire makes her into a queer feminist, and, thus, a monster to be villainized and othered in the eyes of the patriarchy. "
- "This film is gorgeous. The location, which is East Sussex, is beyond stunning. The design of the location and the costumes is just pure beauty. When it comes to the telling of the story, I am smitten. It’s sensual without being gratuitous. It’s subtle but powerful. It’s a masterpiece. I can’t rave about this movie more. So many women were involved in making this movie possible. Every other film adaption of this story is basically directed by a man, and it films too much from the male gaze. Whereas this version of Carmilla focuses more on them, on the story and less on the sex. It’s gorgeous. Watch this film. While the story itself is a tale as old as time, it is still beautiful none the less. Emily Harris knows how to tell this story in a way that is inviting, that is sensual, that is an awakening for a young girl as well as the viewer."
- "A beautiful and essential addition to the list of Carmilla adaptations, Harris proves again that some passions can transcend death itself. "
- "But even as Stoker’s creation dominated popular culture for more than a century, Le Fanu’s vampire refused to go quietly into the good night... awaiting new, as yet unborn translators and interpreters to bring a new take or spin on Carmilla, from Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr to Roger Vadim’s Et mourir de pleaser (Blood and Roses) through Roy Ward Baker’s The Vampire Lovers for Hammer Films, among others, and now Emily Harris’ provocative, challenging adaptation.... [I]n Harris’ hands, Lara’s encounter with Carmilla leaves an indelible mark."
- "Bottom line: this adaptation of Le Fanu’s classic is full of ambiance, passion, and as ironic as it seems, life and comes highly recommended for not only fans of the source material, but Gothic thrillers in general!"
- "Inspired by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu's 1872 vampire novella, "Carmilla" is a Gothic romance; it's evocative and rich in ambiance, visual metaphors, and decadent mood. This is a slow, undulating film, which ... rewards patient viewers with a sumptuous aura and astute social commentary."
- "“Carmilla” presents a mesmerizing Gothic atmosphere...."
Awards & Recognition
Chicago Int'l. Film Festival
Michael Powell Award
Edinburgh Int'l. Film Festival
Sitges Film Festival
Mill Valley Film Festival