WR: Mysteries of the Organism (Makavejev, 1971)

I don’t really know how to talk about WR: Mysteries of the Organism. It’s sort of documentary, sort of absurdist tale of Communism. It kind of reminds me of Marco Ferrari, or maybe late-60s Godard. Maybe of William Klein or Fassbinder a bit.

I only know Dusan Makavejev from Sweet Movie, which I haven’t seen in years, but I’m looking forward to checking out his Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator soon.

I had a great clip to include here, but it didn’t export correctly so, take my word for it, Makavejev’s film is anarchic, full of sex, and really dryly funny. Milena (Milena Dravic) is a Yugoslav revolutionary of sorts who proclaims sexual freedom. She encounters a famous Soviet figure skater Vladimir Ilyich (Ivica Vidovic; is it an accident that he’s named Vladimir, or is he supposed to be some Lenin-stand-in?) and the two embark on a strange sort of love affair (although not really – their sex is hard to come by and interrupted by, among other things, someone crashing through the wall of her apartment and Ilyich being trapped, totally willingly, in a closet). Meanwhile, Makavejev cuts in documentary-like scenes regarding Wilhelm Reich and his equation of orgasm and liberation.

The cross-cut of styles and narratives here makes the film like mockery. There’s an old guard of Communism, the new sexually free youth, shots of Mao and Stalin (well, a fictional film of Stalin), a guy parading around the streets in full army gear, and lots of “documentary’ footage of women experiencing orgasm. The mishmash is anything but rigid Communism and it seems to point to a Yugoslavia that’s bursting at the seams to be free of said austerity and yearns for the real world.

Makavejev shoots the film as an over-saturated performance. The actors play it big, the blood is like paint, and the costuming is obvious. Ilyich ends up a pretty important part. His role is hilarious. He’s both masculine and impotent, a murderer and bewildered wanderer (by the end of the film). He’s probably the major representation of “big brother.” It’s telling that he’s also glorified and macho publicly and an unnecessarily violent, grinning buffoon privately.



About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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