Originally an absurdist play by Eugene Ionesco, Rhinoceros tells the story of a French town plagued by rhinoceroses. These are not ordinary rhinoceroses, but people who have been victims of "rhinoceritis." Or is it something else entirely? But, why are they turning into rhinoceroses and what is Ionesco trying to tell us about society? Written by
Jeff Schoner <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Whether or not you like it just depends on your tolerance for absurdism.
The French/Romanian writer Eugène Ionesco wrote this VERY strange story for The Theatre of the Absurd. Now if you are the sort of person who likes their stories very literal (or semi-comprehensible), you will most likely have no interest in this film. In fact, MOST people would probably have no interest in this movie!! Despite this, it was a reasonable hit on Broadway--running for 240 performances (very good back in the 60s) and earning Zero Mostel the Tony.
There are other films that are absurdist and most often they are French (such as "Buffet Froid"). The trademark of these stories are bizarre situations but even more bizarre are the reactions or lack of serious reactions by the actors. Here in "Rhinoceros", people inexplicably start turning into rhinos!! It's totally weird. But weirder still is that folks aren't all that upset about it and although they react, it's completely out of proportion. While there SHOULD be panic and terror, folks take it very much in stride. Other really odd bits are the dream sequence 2/3 of the way through film where Karen Black in orange crepe dances about with Mostel (who at this point has already turned into a rhino but he's not a rhino in the dream)--while Gene Wilder looks on from inside a cage marked 'Human'. You may be tempted to keep watching--just so something is eventually revealed that makes it all make sense. But this is NOT something you very important in truly absurdist films--as they WANT to provoke the audience and confuse them. Some have interpreted all this craziness as a reaction against Fascism, Communism, conformity, modern life or WWII or whatever. I doubt if this was the intention...who knows.
The bottom line is that even if you are a huge fan of the Mostel/Wilder combination (they were BRILLIANT in "The Producers"), this still probably will be a very tough movie to like. I am not saying it isn't without merit (a bit of the comedy is funny--such as when Mostel tells his friend to take in some culture--such as seeing a Eugène Ionesco play--and he's the guy who wrote "Rhinoceros"!). For me, it was very hard going even if it was, in an odd way, well written and acted.
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