Wednesday, September 06, 2006

W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (1971)

W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (Dusan Makavejev, 1971)
Croatian Title: W.R. - Misterije organizma

There's so many unconnected things happening in Dusan Makavejev's W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism that the words confusing, sloppy, whimsical aren't far-fetched descriptions of the film. The film starts with a documentary on Wilhelm Reich (the W.R. in the title) that focuses on Reich's political and psychosexual theories that resulted to his incarceration and death. The bulk of the film however is a satiric narrative that somehow pokes fun at the restrictions of communism, the liberalities of democracy, and the cowardice of everything in between. In between scenes are snippets from an archived melodrama on Stalin's life, an interview with a glam gender-bender, several footages inside a mental hospital, and continuations of the documentary discussing Reich's work. The film is an utter hodgepodge: messy, unbearably tactless, yet fascinatingly insightful. I'd like to describe Makavejev's filmmaking as Godard without class, finesse and limitations.

The interconnections between the different scenes are tedious. Reich's teachings seem to mirror Makavejev's philosophy of sexual freedom, being ousted from politics. It's desirous that Makavejev begin the film with the documentary instead of plunging his audiences head on to a warped yet wondrous take on sexual politics within the sphere of realtime politics. Reich is described in the documentary as an odd fellow who escaped to America after being persecuted in his native land for his experiments. Yet even in America where freedom is supposedly the driving force of the great American dream, his experiments are considered far too communist or too eccentric and that eventually led to his demise. Reich's experiments feel like new age stuff, a mixed bag of sexual freedom, naturalism, and psychological hooplah that feels more pornographic and immoral, than medical.

More interesting is the narrative, a giddy satire that ends in a crass tragedy. Milena (Milena Dravic) has been espousing sexual freedom within the rigid communist society of Belgrade. She believes that sexual freedom is part and parcel of the beliefs and the philosophy of a socialist state. In a humor-filled scene, Milena starts preaching his beliefs in front of her crowded tenement when an old neighbor scoffs at her roommate who is again having sex with a stranger. Milena falls in love with a visiting ice skater (Ivica Vidovic), who misunderstands her sexual philosophy despite the fact that they are both communists. The narrative sparks in extreme satire when Milena achieves the orgasm she desires from the Russian ultra-communist, she is entreated to be beheaded and even without a body, she continues to preach sexual freedom and delights in the fact that her goals have been achieved: a true martyr of the sexual revolution she espouses, as she continues in liberating despite the fact that she is without the body for which to derive pleasure in liberation.

Makavejev's film has been described as revolutionary, and is even compared to Orson Welles' Citizen Kane. I disagree. Makavejev owes much to Godard and other experimental filmmakers and documentarians and nothing really new is contributed to filmmaking with this piece. It's insightful in its crassness and bluntness. Much of Makavejev's messages have become cryptic because of the fact that Soviet socialism has been declining and the scenario wherein Majavejev sets his preachings have become lost in history. It's still an interesting film, probably at par with Godard's more political works, than Welles.

1 comment:

Lichanos said...

It's been a long time since I've seen a Goddard film, but I don't recall ever laughing at one. This film is brilliant: biting, humane, hilarious, subversive, sexy, deliciously and outrageously ironic.