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Riccardo Serventi Longhi
A church is built during medieval times on top of a pile of dead bodies that were considered possessed. Hundreds of years later a young librarian unleashes the evil within, by removing a rock in the catacombs. Series of events occur meanwhile, everybody just does not seem to be the same. Father Gus is the only one not possessed, he must save the city from becoming a pandemonium, he must find the ancient secret of the church so it can crumble to pieces. Written by
"I turned what was conceived as schlock pizza cinema into a strong essay on karma and the ambiguous inner conflicts we all face at some time in our lives." --Michele Soavi, from Alan Jones's "Profundo Argento"
'"My brief to Michele was for him to explore the feelings I had about life in contemporary Germany being the beginning of a new Middle Ages. Michele made the Hitler references and evil allusions work."' --Dario Argento, from "Profundo Argento"
Director Michele Soavi's "The Church" is unlike any horror film you will ever watch. To say it is merely horror, however, is a mistake. This is an incisive-critique of the crimes of the Vatican over centuries, the sins-of-intolerance, and the demons they give-rise to. Coupled with newer theories on magical geometry (in 1988,anyway), as well as the studies of European Cathedrals and their connections to occult-lore and symbology, Soavi, Dardano Sachetti and Argento weave an allegory of how evil the roots of organized faith are. One could say that this is a truly "Medieval" story within a Medieval-universe that is similar to the one held by the Manichean-heresy (Cathars). As in Cemetery Man, our Earth is portrayed as a dominion-of-evil, where mankind is unable to transcend an architecture that prohibits redemption at every-turn. A trap, not made by God, but by a lower-entity. In this universe, the world is a prison, created by greater-powers and forces. Like the prison-world of Gnosticism, Soavi hints that we are prone to Lords of this World ("Archons"), and that human-wisdom has been withheld--particularly feminine-wisdom, which is absent in most orthodox-faiths.
Soavi doesn't seem to hold-out much hope for redemption here, but I find that is a theme in his early films. This connects him thematically with directors like Fritz Lang, who posit a fateful universe, and a terminal human-condition (determinist). This is a very modern viewpoint, ironically, since he places it in a Medieval-cosmology, a nice-trick! If you are a student of occult-lore, and symbology, this film is a real treat. It is peppered with imagery that surely has a subconscious effect on viewers. Because of this, I found it created a GREATER sense-of-dread when I watched it, and many scenarios and images are intentionally archetypal. Real Cathedral-friezes are flashed throughout the film, and there is a genuine meaning for their placements-- thematic meanings. If you find the storyline a little meandering, this is why. Most of this film is about themes and symbolic-meaning, rather than a linear-plot, though it does have that. A number of shots in the film demonstrate that some of this film was shot in Germany, but there are definitely images taken from many-other Cathedrals in-Europe. The main interiors were done in a Cathedral that needed restoration-funds in Hungary.
"The Church" also seems to be saying that the Catholic-hierarchy has something to hide in her origins, literally "covering-it-up" by building a Cathedral over the site of a massacre by Teutonic Knights (directed-by the Medieval Church) of a group of peaceful-heretics. Clearly, the sect represents the Albigensians/Cathars, but it can be generalized to the many faiths that were crushed by Christian orthodoxy, including esoteric Christian and pagan ones. Because of this suppression, a valuable-chunk of human-thought, culture and experience has been hidden (the definition of "occult") from the average person. The results have been unfortunate, with an anemic modern existence of meaninglessness, made-worse when orthodox Christianity's dogma has fallen-away, particularly in Europe. What has Judeo-Christianity had to offer women that the cult of Isis did not? A lot less, as it is patriarchal, offering only the unnatural Mary as a mother-archetype, rather than an image of real motherhood and empathy. Primitive-Christian beliefs surrounding reincarnations are also present in the plot line, most-particularly in Asia Argento's character, Lotte. In-fact, nearly-all the principle-characters are reincarnations from the Medieval-prologue! Once-crushed faiths sometimes re-emerge to overtake orthodox-ones.
Having little-to-offer, we see why the Church (and Islam and Judaism) had to borrow-from pagan religions--a barbaric patriarchy didn't have much to offer people psychologically. The ancients knew that the mind needs symbols that are healing, comforting and empathetic. Between heaven-and-hell, there is man, their source. As above, so below. Hermetic-wisdom teaches us that the universe is contained in-microcosm in mankind, and Soavi express this well. Wisdom cults of the Hellenistic age were well-aware that religion is symbology, and little-else. Religion is psychology, and Soavi's film is very expressionist.
Early-psychoanalysts like Jung and Freud used mythological metaphors and terms for a good-reason: they resonate with meaning over-the-ages. Isis is ALL women, Zeus is an aspect of ALL men, and Apollo's androgynous wisdom represents aspects of both-sexes. Ignoring these aspects of humanity is what breeds demons. The Church stands-accused. Some would say this film (and review) are "anti-Catholic", but they would be wrong. The authors of "The Church" have stated many-times they are still Catholic, and this author was baptized as one. We just love what is good about faith and spirituality, and shun what is hateful about it. An incredible film, directed by a genius. Try the Anchor Bay edition, it's widescreen with an excellent transfer for image and sound. One reviewer noted wrongly that Goblin did the score--it was Claudio Simonetti of-Goblin, Phillip Glass, and others.
PS: "The Church" was originally slated to be the official "Demons 3" as part of the Argento franchise, but didn't end-up being that film. "The Ogre" has been arbitrarily given the "Demons 3" title by the owners of that film. It has no-relation to the other "Demons" films, and easily surpasses-them.
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