Film Micrœview #81: The Dance of Reality (2013)
06.01.2014 § Leave a comment
I’ll just say straightaway that one should not go into The Dance of Reality expecting an experience on the order of El Topo or The Holy Mountain. It’s not the kind of non-stop spirituo-phenomeno-cognitive assault as those. In this film, the actors’ primary function is actually as characters in a story, rather than extended metaphors in a psychotic syncretic episodic thing.
To me, this is a good thing. Certainly, this seems more like the kind of movie Jodorowsky at this stage in his life would or should be making. This man has nothing to hide, nothing to prove. Sure, moments may lack subtlety. And I could have done without him himself materializing in this magical autobiography to console his younger self. But who else, really, could even remotely get away with such shenanigans? None other, really, than Jodorowsky, the motherfucking sorcerer.
The film primarily concerned conflict between religious and political ideals of community, here via Christianity and Communism, respectively, although this theme focused most closely in on the family. The narrative could be summed up like this: a father puts his son through several manhood rites to prepare him to face a set of Hardships of the world, and then finds himself going through all of these Hardships actually (and maybe even in reverse sequence, I might think a second viewing tallying for this would confirm).
Jodorowsky’s style is not surreal — it is corporeal. Everything that he needs to say about the human experience he finds a way to express through the human anatomy. I find this to be a beautiful and compelling art. My favorite example of this in The Dance of Reality is one of the father’s first manhood rites: he tickles his boy with a feather, and insists that he does not laugh. In this, I feel like Jodorowsky has miraculously captured the entire father-son relationship in one seemingly simple activity. The father’s demand is absolutely serious (and we will see in his next rite a more straightforward “how much pain of me slapping you can you endure”) but it is undercut with this strange tenderness and playfulness.