Friday, June 18, 2010

Begotten (1990)

This is the film that caused of a break between the local art house, myself and my friend Lou. We were not there constantly, but we did go frequently, Lou more than me, to the extent that he had a membership, but the attitude they had toward this film really set us off and the visits to the theater became almost non existent.

The argument, which occurred over several weeks, always came as they made a point of wanting titles to show. "We want to show more than just the usual films" they would say, which was followed by the taking of suggestions. And then people would suggest things they would take notes, but when you'd suggest Begotten they would say, "NO" with a final certainty that only a condemned man hears when asked if the Governor called, seconds before the switch is thrown.

When we finally got to talk to the head of the cinema and asked why they would say that they hated it, that it was "a piece of shit" and they would never play it. They then made it very clear that he and his family were the final arbiter of good taste concerning the theater. My friend and myself got truly fed up at that point since it became clear that love of all film wasn't what the place was about, it was a love of film that they thought was good.

Of course the joke was on them since even though they swore never to run the film, they eventually did some 10 or 15 years later. It was a small victory on mine and Lou's part. (we did debate going to the screening and asked them what took so long for them to run it, but decided against it)

E Elias Merhige's Begotten is a unique film. Its cinematic equivalent of being trapped in someone else's nightmare. In its way its more disturbing than David Lynch's Earaserhead because of the way the film has been shot and there is even less to grasp on to.

Shot is a moody black and white film that has had the contrast messed with, among other things. Its a grainy trip into decaying film and decaying minds that appears to show either gods or demons awakening in some nether world in the next universe over. May not. Its a film that is purely visuals and sound with no real way of grasping what is happening except to force a meaning upon them.

Its a head trip. Its a mind scrambling film that will force you to think about and discuss what you think it means or what was going on even if you don't like it. Other than the art theater managers, I have never ever spoken to anyone who saw the film who could simply say it was good or bad. If they liked it they had to talk about the meaning, if they hated it, they had to say something about why the film was bad. I love that the film forces you to interact with it. You can't just dismiss it or accept it, its a film that requires commentary.

This is out on DVD and worth a look for those who want the brain cells tickled.

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