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Art House Pick of the Week: W.R. Mysteries of the Organism (1971)

April 22, 2014

wrposterIf you ever find yourself with the desire to watch something in the realm of artsy and obscure on a whim, then go to Hulu and find W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism. Next, grab a wine glass, lift your left leg a tad, let out the air, and waft it under your nose as you press play. W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism is progressive, it’s cutting-edge, it’s campy, and its mind-blowingly revolutionary. It’s avant-garde in all its eye-rolling, artsy fartsy greatness. Making sense of the chopped up barrage of images and scenarios is strictly dependent on the viewer’s open mindedness or how under the influence of any particular substance one is. There’s a clear cut intention evident within W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism, but the fun part is dissecting all the dirty topics it pushes to the forefront: sex, politics, and war.

Director Dušan Makavejev’s W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism is an episodic essay that strings together a multitude of speeches, thoughts, and scenarios connected by themes of frustration at the Communism Party for having failed in promoting the one thing it should to succeed; free love. The themes are further woven together by a collage of documentary footage detailing the work and efforts of psychotherapist and Sigmund Freud’s right hand man, William Reich. Through Reich’s teachings, his followers of the film believe that only through sex could communism work since free love resulted in fulfillment, all the motivation any citizen would need to do their parts in society.

When we’re not focusing on Reich’s career in bits and pieces, a myriad of edits ensure that we explore the film’s themes through every unconventional method imaginable. An episode featuring a fierce Yugoslavic communist and her free loving roommate gives way to lingering scenes in which we watch two characters have awkward, passionless sex—constantly. Other times our gaze is centered on a strange unnamed character who wonders the unexpecting city streets in near homeless war attire making lewd gestures with his gun. The film further complicates itself when it reveals a fictionalized story taking place within the muddled world of documentary clips and audio from William Reich and followers of the Orgone movement.

We get a peeping eye into lessons on orgasmic theory and hear extremely fascinating discussions of the topic. In opposition, we see horrific footage, such as a man being given electronic shock therapy and the damaging results, as well as authentic, boorish government propaganda films. Unfortunately, Makavejev’s lack of context denies these images ample power to decipher its intended meaning. Much of W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism’s issues stem from its reliance of mashing ideas together. At times, the film comes off like a visual rough draft begging to be corrected with red marks and inserts. Though only 84 minutes long, W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism often drags during the dramatic narrative taking place, arguably the weakest element of the film.

Regardless, I’m a bit of a film snob so any film that presents an engaging argument and employs a host of cinematic tricks, no matter how annoying, usually has a fair place in my book, as does most things of the avant-garde. French film revolutionist Jean-Luc Godard is my favorite director, I genuinely love Yoko Ono’s thought pieces and early musical experimentation. Themes of conscious expansion, cosmic oneness, ancient aliens and individual freedoms are part of my daily conversations, so naturally W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism was my type of film despite its obvious, noticeable shortcomings. It made me uncomfortable, further prodding me to think in new ways with new ideas. Any film that can do it is the type of film the world needs more of.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Mr. Nobody permalink
    April 29, 2014 1:30 PM

    “Somewhere among the overbearing government oppression and stifling existence of individual freedoms, Russians citizens were getting fed up.”
    I don’t quite understand this comment. The film is not Russian nor is it set in Russia but in Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was never part of the USSR nor was it a part of the Eastern Bloc either. In fact, although this particular film was banned initially when it came out, for a country outside the paradigm of Western democracy, socialist Yugoslavia had a remarkably vibrant avant-garde scene in nearly all the arts. There is an excellent book on the topic called “Impossible Histories: Historic Avant-Gardes, Neo-Avant-Gardes, and Post-Avant-Gardes in Yugoslavia, 1918–1991″ that you can have a look at if you’re interested in more information!

    • April 29, 2014 1:57 PM

      Thank you for the comment and correction. Noted and fixed. Also thanks for the recommendation, if I can find it I’ll definitely check it out!

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