"feverish little flick"
GB / GER 2000. Director: Various. Producers: Karsten Weber, Duncan Reekie. Filmmakers: Kerri Sharp, Filmgruppe Abgedreht, Duncan Reekie, Caroline Kennedy, Colette Rouhier, Filmgruppe Chaos, Steven Eastwood, Jeninger Film, Häntfilm, Paul Tarrago, Jennet Thomas.

It's no big news that in search for a blueprint for worthwhile stories movie producers quickly turn to novels that could make a good picture. And indeed, from "Gone With The Wind" to "Lord Of The Rings", most of the very successful films of the past 75 years have been based on books. A lot of less successful films, too, by the way. Of course there are also novels which due to their structural and/or epic nature can't be turned into a motion picture that easily, if not at all. James Ellroy's masterpiece of noir action "Black Dahlia" comes to mind, which reportedly drove David Fincher almost insane when he was trying to cut his screenplay down to under 300 pages without neglecting important details. The movie I'm about to review, which bears the title "Maldoror", is based on a novel of the same name. I have to admit that I have never read the novel (or any late 19th century French literature for that matter) nor have I ever heard of the author Comte de Lautreamont / Isodore Ducasse before. After googling around a little, I found commentaries on the book like "strangely dreamlike, automatic text", "of nightmarish pre-surrealist quality", and even "a searing, rambling, poisonous derangement of all the senses in masquerade". Sounds like this piece of work isn't really predestined to make it to the big screen, right? Damn right! Well, a group of reckless film makers from England and Germany took their Super 8 gear and gave it a try nonetheless.

The film itself is divided into 12 episodes which were shot seperately by different people, so there is no narrative storytelling (which obviously applies for the novel as well) or recurring character that the viewer could identify with in the traditional sense of the term. It's almost impossible (at least for me) to give you a summary of the plot just from watching the tape but here's what I have understood after multiple viewings and, admittedly, reading the text on the sleeve: Maldoror, the main character (portrayed by a different actor in each episode), is a fallen angel who has to dwell among mankind which he hates passionately. He also hates God beyond redemption. We're treated to bits and snippets of his fruitless search for mental peace and his longing for a true friend while spewing misanthropy non-stop. Throughout the film, a voice-over reads excerpts from Ducasse's prose which at first seems pretty annoying and takes a lot of concentration to follow but once you "get into the groove" it is an invaluable guidance through what seems to be nothing but an incoherent mess. If you have the patience to let the words and the accompanying flow of moving pictures and experimental collages work on you, you may get a good glimpse into the insane world of Mr. Ducasse, but I guess you have to read the book in order to work your way through to the core.

The folks behind "Maldoror" set out to create high art on a very low budget with total disregard for commercial compatibility. The movie demands a lot of attention from its audience, so it's certainly not a recommended viewing for a casual beer & pizza video night with your buddies. But if you can overlook the snob value of a self-acclaimed "underground movie" and if you are willing to let yourself get swallowed by this feverish little flick, it might reward you with some food for thought. Maybe it won't. You have to find out for yourself. At least you can just kick back and enjoy the raw beauty and dreamlike quality of Super 8, cause you'll get that aplenty here!

- mack -