Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky
Trigger warning for rape, violence and animal death.
Religion, mental illness, pain and suffering …. I spent a fair whack of this movie saying “what’s going on?” and “I don’t understand”
The story is framed with Fenix in a mental hospital, with the story of his childhood told in flashbacks. As it happens, his childhood in a circus wasn’t particularly cheerful and in fact some very upsetting things happen.. such as his religious fanatic mother nearly being run over by bulldozer, his father cutting off his mother’s arms… all sorts of intense stuff. Sorry, mother screaming, attacking father sleeping with another woman and cutting off his genitals, and then he cuts of her arms and goes out to die and dogs start eating him right away.
Fenix … he manages to fall in love with deaf mute Alma, who is being trained to walk the tight rope by her abusive mother. She ends up helping him with his magic show but is taken away by her tattooed mother and doesn’t see her again until they are adults.
He sees weird ass things happen and he recreates them as an adult – with violence and a twisted possession from his mother.. Like she has a strange hold on him, made stranger by his agreeing to be her arms for a stage show. Concha and ‘her magic hands’ is a study in creepy mother relationships that Norman Bates would approve of.
Are we supposed to feel that his mother Concha is the ultimate in evil? Or is it just one of many things which happen to him to twist his mind? His father was very messed up too after all, and no one in the mental hospital seems concerned with abusing him.
Around the time he turned the girl he’d killed into a swan by painting her white, Wayne and Blair pointed out that it’s basically the director playing with himself, and trying as hard as possible to be shocking. Mike and Steve pointed out on twitter that it’s a psychedelic thriller, and once I combined those two things I understood a bit more about the film.
You can easily see how this film inspired things like Antichrist and Black Swan, strange hyper real movies about the destruction of the human mind.
Does it make me love the people?
Bechdel test: No, we have Concha and Alma, but the other women are named by their purpose in the movie (fat prostitute, tatooed woman). Alma is a deaf mute so she isn’t involved in any conversations, and although Concha talks a lot it’s not generally to other named women. Tough.
Possibly the best subtitle I’ve ever seen “Wig makes honking sound”
Concha: You can’t atone for your sins with nightmares
State of Mind: What the ACTUAL FUCK just happened I don’t understand, that was stressful and I didn’t enjoy it. I guess it had eloquent metaphors, but it also had sledgehammer to the face metaphors, and it was weird and disconcerting. I didn’t care for it.