Monday, November 3, 2008

E. Elias Merhige - Begotten (1991)

I came across this film in the form of a cut down fan-made music video for a Silencer song on youtube. It worked rather well, using various tortured scenes to go along with Nattramn's screeching, so I thought I'd check out the entire thing.

Begotten is a silent independent film done by Merhige, whose purported inspiration for creating it came from a harrowing car crash when he was young. The "story" deals with quasi-religious themes, from the suicide of God to the rape of Mother Earth. Now, if this were a normal movie, I'd be concerned with giving away the plot, but...there's little story to the movie, and I probably wouldn't have caught much of it at all if I hadn't read about it beforehand. It's a movie to be "experienced", if you will.

Essentially, this is artsy torture porn, but made as boring and obtuse as possible. Each frame was rephotographed extensively to eliminate shades of grey in the film. Although it makes for a striking image, the resulting extreme contrast often obfuscates what is going on in the scene, changing them from torturous activities to black and white shapes flailing with some semblance of discomfort. This causes a detachment from the suffering on the viewer's end, because it is often uncertain what exactly is happening. Add to that the extreme repetition of every part, and it soon becomes trite. The music put to this doesn't help at all, often neither going along with the movie nor being particularly emotive on its own.

It's too bad, because many of the scenes are decently disturbing, and the style is pretty cool. If Merhige cut down on the repetition padding out the length and allowed it to flow better, it would be much more interesting. Also, playing your own music is a must. I watched it for 15 minutes with the default drivel, then threw on the Senthil tracks from their split, and it fit absolutely perfectly.

Verdict: Fail [2/5] (Senthil endorsement here)

After watching through much of the movie, there is one scene that makes it worthwhile.

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