Reviewed By The Ultimate Dancing Machine
Posted 12/26/02 18:53:51

3 stars (Average)

God is dead. He just disemboweled Himself in a cabin deep in the woods. Next thing you know, Mother Earth emerges from the entrails. And you, dear viewer, are in Hell, especially if you have trouble stomaching lugubrious arthouse epics like this.

An early effort from the director who more recently gave us the overrated SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE, this film is capital-A Art, one which aims at nothing less than the status of creation myth. The movie falls considerably short of that lofty goal--as well it might--but it's interesting, at least part of the way. It is shot entirely in grainy black-and-white; it has no dialogue; there is no plot to speak of. What it has is a murkily defined scenario, punctuated with occasionally striking imagery, dealing with the birth and death of the gods. Either that or a meat packers strike in Cleveland.

The expressionistic B&W visuals immediately bring to mind David Lynch's ERASERHEAD--and BEGOTTEN does not benefit from the comparison; it lacks the richness of texture that distinguishes its forebear. BEGOTTEN simply trundles along in Joseph Campbell territory, earnestly and monotonously. You're not halfway through the film when the director hits the bottom of his bag of tricks, and it begins to look like he's repeating the same shots over and over. An awful lot of screen time is devoted to a guy twitching spasmodically on the ground while hooded figures stand around him.

In all fairness, we do get some compelling moments; the opening sequence is eye-grabbingly strange, and the cataphonic, ever-shifting soundtrack may be a more impressive achievement than the visuals. There is talent at work here--but it's not enough to produce a cohesive, satisfying movie.

Not bad, but I think Merhige missed his calling: he should have been a director of thrash-metal videos.

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