Old 08-13-2009, 02:02 PM
Dusan Makavejev's W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism

W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (1971)

A couple of months ago, I reviewed a documentary called "Crumb" that broke the first rule of documentaries which is that, when one chooses to make a documentary, it must be about someone (or something) interesting, but at least it had stuck it out with its subject for the entire film, no matter how bad it got. Dusan Makavejev's "W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism" starts off as a documentary about another mostly uninteresting subject and, as if the filmmakers lost interest in their own subject, switches from one topic to.....nothing.

The film starts off being a documentary about Wilhelm Reich, an advocate for making love and having orgasms to make one's self happy. He was apparently an assistant to Freud, a communist, then an anti-communist when he moved to the states. This comprises maybe the first 25 minutes or so of the film and is all we really learn about the man before the film strays off into bizarre and nonsensical territory.

From about the 25 minutes mark, the film becomes completely incoherent, throwing in random footage of Stalin, pornography, and a small love story between a woman, Melina (Milena Dravic), and an ice skater, Vladimir Ilyich (Ivica Vidovic). You would think that Makavejev might be able to handle a simple love story, but even that becomes incredibly random amongst the other footage that is thrown in.

What we're left with is a half-baked documentary that turns into a completely random mishmash of footage that is neither interesting nor engaging in any way. It's as though Makavejev had absolutely no idea what he wanted the film to be about so he just threw in lots of things to try to appease everyone, but there must have been some reason for putting together the love story, some point that he was trying to make with all of these meandering scenes.

The first part of the film is at least somewhat interesting. Reich's beliefs were a little "out there," but it made for some interesting discussion. He had apparently built a box that was meant to accumulate the orgasmic energy of a person, which he even thought could be used to heal disease, but most of all, was meant to simply make people happy.

However, even a lot of the first part of the film meanders about, showing us footage of women trying to release orgasmic energy by breathing in different ways and even screaming. We are told that Reich's books were burned, but we are not told very much about the content of these books. We are told that he was sent to jail and died there, but not what his specific crime was, or anything about his trial, if there even was one.

Then, there is the sudden switch to Milena's story, as if Makavejev had run out of information on Reich, or had simply lost interest in his subject. If that is the case, what was the point of continuing on with random footage of pornography, Stalin, and even a woman making a cast of a man's penis? Makavejev obviously had nothing else to say after that point, yet soldiered on into complete incoherence.

This film might have worked as a short documentary had Makavejev eliminated all of the footage after about the 25 minute mark and then gone back to edit the first part to include only the relevant sections as well as providing more information about Reich, his works, beliefs, and what happened to him when he was arrested.

According to Roger Ebert in his "Great Movie" (great movie truly being in quotes as this film is nowhere near "great") essay on the film, this is very typical of Makavejev's film. He apparently liked to just throw together material from anywhere and let people take away from it what they will. So, supposedly all one has to do is throw together anything they want, and presto, you have a movie, despite the complete lack of any coherent structure or any footage worth sitting through. These are two major things lacking from "W.R: Mysteries of the Organism," and as far as taking away what you will from it, it couldn't be that there's nothing there to take away in the first place, could it?.....Could it? 1.5/4 stars.
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Old 08-13-2009, 02:42 PM
Originally Posted by Hal2001 View Post
So, supposedly all one has to do is throw together anything they want, and presto, you have a movie, despite the complete lack of any coherent structure or any footage worth sitting through.
Well, in Makavejev's case I'd probably define it more as the defiance of traditional aesthetics as a statement of liberation, but if you really want to put it that way, yes.

I enjoy this movie very much.
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