ending on a high note

“Like a flame burning away the darkness
Life is flesh on bone convulsing above the ground.”

What is this and why should you care?  There aren’t a lot of films which can impact the desensitized, cynical soul of an internet veteran.  This is where we look at those things.

Begotten is a much lauded experimental horror film from the 1990s, a labor of love by director E Elias Mehinge.  This is the part of the review where the quote “one of the 10 most important films of the modern times” by Susan Sontag is trotted out.  Does the film live up to the reputation?  On some levels, it does.  A man graphically disembowels himself, a woman masturbates his half living corpse to climax and then impregnates herself with the issue, a man-child is repeatedly, savagely beaten.  And more!  The haunting, grimy film style (reportedly 10 hours of post production work for each minute of film) will stay with you, but as a cohesive whole the film largely fails to captivate, with moments of brilliance sandwiched by minutes of tedium.

There isn’t a single spoken word throughout, not even a named character until the cast card at the end reveals the characters and gives the audience a chance to try and fit meaning to the 115 minute trial they’ve just endured.  Is it worth it?  Can the astute viewer extract enough meaning, or the patient viewer entertainment to make the experience worthwhile?

Are you there, God, it's me, straight razor.

Are you there, God? it’s me, straight razor.

Probably not.  But let’s go deeper and see what we can get.

Before we delve into the plot, a bird’s eye view of the experience:  there isn’t a scene that doesn’t feature droning repetitive sounds and droning repetitive motion.  Most of the shots are too close to make out exactly what’s going on, and with the overexposed black and white color, it’s too easy to lose track of what we’re watching.  The acts of this film, there are 4, are each over twenty minutes long, and when losing oneself in the repeating sounds, the repeating images, it is easy to lose a sense of time.  How long have I been watching a man epileptically thrusting a straight razor into his own stomach?  One might ask oneself.  How long have these men been gang raping this woman?

 

This is the film at its best, forcing the viewer to struggle with his own experience.  But we’re ahead of ourselves.  Gentle readers, I suggest you read elsewhere.  There will be graphic depictions of the horrors mentioned above.  For the rest of us: deep breath, here we go.

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