Interesting, but I'm still not really sure what to make of it
This is one of the earliest surrealist films, predating the more notorious "Un chien andalou" by a year. The main reason I decided to check it out was because of the involvement of Antonion Artaud, my favorite member of the original surrealist group (despite being kicked out later). He wrote the screenplay, and many of his running themes appear. There's fall from grace, fear of sex, and the entwining of fantasy and reality to the point the audience is unable to tell one from the other and becomes "involved" with the on-screen action. The film itself plays like a half remembered dream, and if you're unfamiliar with the work of Artaud, it'll likely not make too much sense. I count him as one of my favorite writers, but I'm still not too sure what to make of this project (apparently he was extremely dissatisfied with the final result).
If anything, I enjoyed watching it, as it features a great dreamlike atmosphere in the way only silent films can project. There's a lot of nice and charmingly primitive camera tricks on display here. If you enjoy the effects work of Jean Cocteau (coincidentally, my second favorite surrealist after Artaud), you'll find plenty here to be hypnotized by. The direction by Germaine Dulac keeps the atmosphere level high. Like the best surrealist work, the images don't work by any conventional logic, but achieve a sub conscience level where they work on their own - they don't make sense, but the viewer is convinced there is deeper meaning nonetheless. Artaud considered this a failure, and to be honest it is moderately disappointing, because I'd think any film revolving around his themes would be a masterpiece. Still, its interesting and worth seeking out. (8/10)
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