Walerian Borowczyk

film 5 of 5

Scherzo Infernal

Film Review by Jun 29, 2015

Okay, at this point Borowczyk really does appear to be an addict, or at least an obsessive of late-Pasolinian dimensions. The proliferation of these demon phalluses is really remarkable, for range, imagination, ridiculousness. The appearance of this ravaged, innocent-going-on-depraved angel only ups the ante, or confirms one’s suspicions. There is a reassuring and not inappropriate impulse to simply condemn and avoid this stuff. In many ways this kind of carnal obsession and carnal detailing might as well be futurism—it’s all griniding gears, unto moral annihilation.

On the other hand, there may be a ghost in this machine; it’s clear that the author knows how far he’s going, and has reasons that are more than just pornographic. He is not only caught in something, but he’s also up to something.  There is provocation: being bratty-Buñuelian, as well as making some Sade-ian claim for a freedom without limits. But what of the film’s conclusion? The devil and the angel, male power/impulse and female vulnerability/exaltation meet brutally. And then they produce sublimely. Out of this unholy congress comes, without irony, the Vetruvian Man. In other words, perfection out of and even because of our great limitation.

There are also, for the more chaste viewer, as well as the plain conscientious objector, important pre-lapsarian implications in this stuff. Sanctified marriage redeems the spouses from the effects of the Fall, and from some of its assumed proscriptions as well. Authorized union is not an obscenity or a pornography—however much the frigid might make it out to be such. We can, we must look and linger and abide.

Back to the film, that repeated shot from/of the back of the angel is really something. That little blush of colour! The law has often equated images of genitalia with obscenity. Yes. No? What of that well-known advertising image from W.B.’s Immoral Tales? It’s an Eisensteinian—or maybe it’s Dovzhenko!—juxtaposition. A flower! Increase, in other words, all of the senses and all the sympathies, the most exquisite beauty, and exaltation. I have a really wonderful student, a wonderful person who unequivocally equates nudity with pornography. It seems to me that we need to find ways to think about all of this stuff in another way altogether.