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In "Communion," Whitley Strieber's autobiographical book comes to
life...sort of. Viewing this movie is a strange experience, and certainly
not for all tastes. It is a very cerebral piece of work from a director who
did not wholeheartedly agree with Strieber's interpretation of the events
surrounding his so-called abduction. Phillipe Mora makes an effort to give
the film an air of surrealism, right down to even having the blatant
symbolism of DeChirico paintings on the walls of Strieber's home (whether or
not Strieber actually had such paintings is beside the point). The director
tries to give the impression that Strieber is suffering a breakdown while
simultaneously trying to present the events without too much distortion.
Tough task...it's easy to see why the film seems diluted and without
However, this also provides the film with an atmosphere that can also help enhance the whole point, which is not "was Whitley Strieber abducted by aliens," but rather "how did Whitley's interpretation of an inexplicable event effect him and those around him?" One of the last scenes, an exchange between Strieber and his wife in a museum, conveys this point perfectly. "It's just God, masks of God." It can be equated with a religious experience, feeling the touch of God. Strieber FELT the touch of an outside presence. Does that mean he was visited by aliens? This is irrelevant, and I firmly believe that this is what the point of the film should be. And let's face it, the film is called "Communion," which means "to be at one with God."
The mechanics of the film are rather well constructed. Christopher Walken is in fine form as Strieber, giving a wonderful portrayal of a writer on the edge (of a discovery or his sanity?). Lindsay Crouse does a good job as Strieber's wife. The acting is slightly flat in some areas, but this might've been another device of Mora's to add to the surrealism. Constant uses of the New York skyline add a sense of foreboding to the film, not just because of the beauty of these scenes, but because it helps give the impression of an outside presence. The music (with Eric Clapton on guitar) is pretty good, typical of the synthesizer-based scores of most '80's movies, but it adds well to the setting. And even though the special effects may seem laughable, Mora has made the case (perhaps pretentiously) that this was also deliberate. The FOX TV version (which seems to be the version being shown on Showtime Digital Cable) adds several sequences, and increases the light contrast in certain scenes, adding a glowing white haze to many scenes. Some have complained about the scene in the psychiatrist's office being so bright, but I think it also helps get the message that there may be an outside presence surrounding all of us, whether we recognize it or not.
"Communion" is an interesting movie that suffered from a view that was perhaps too short-sighted. If the film were made today, one can be sure the message might have been lost on overbloated special effects, and the surreal effect would've been diminished to appeal to the lowest common denominator of movie-going audiences. No matter what your stance on alien abduction, this is a very thought-provoking film. Give it a chance...watch it.
Director Philippe Mora has made some bizarre movies in his time, and
'Communion' is one of the strangest. Christopher Walken plays writer Whitley
Strieber who finds his life going in a very odd direction. Strieber isn't
the most grounded guy in the first place - his writing technique seems to
consist of putting on funny hats and pretending to be a wolf - but even his
broadminded wife Anne (Mamet regular Lindsay Crouse) draws the line at
freaking out at Halloween masks, pulling a gun on imaginary owls or
intruders or whatever it was, and generally nutso behaviour. She convinces
Whit to see a doctor, and then a psychiatrist. Under hypnosis Strieber finds
out more than he is prepared for. At least he's not insane... I
This is one of Walken's greatest "out there" performances, as memorable as 'The Deerhunter', 'The King Of New York' and 'Wild Side'. He mumbles, grimaces, laughs, dances, twitches, stares, freaks out, charms, irritates and scares. I don't think his "Whitley Strieber" has anything to do with the real life one, but it's a sensational performance nonetheless. Walken has few rivals in screen psychos - only Dennis Hopper during his 70s excesses, or vintage Timothy Carey can rival him. Freakin' weird role in a freakin' weird movie! A must see for lovers of movie strangeness.
The film depicts the personal and professional crises a writer experiences
after a series of encounters with non-human beings.
The film strongly benefits from the performances of Christopher Walken and Lindsay Crouse. Walken (always engaging) manages the challenging task of making Whitley Strieber a compelling character; you care about him even if you don't necessarily like him 100% of the time. Crouse succeeds as Whitley's wife; the two together are immediately believable as a married couple.
The film is arguably the most intelligent film about the alien abduction/ visitor phenomenon. Unlike countless cheap, made-for-TV films, where the emphasis is on the sensationalistic, "shocking" aspects of the subject, COMMUNION focuses on the psychological and emotional harm the experience does. We see Strieber describe his experiences to his medical doctor, and then to a psychiatrist. Once his own mental health has been established, then (and only then) does he begin to consider the possibility that the creatures he has seen are actually real.
After questioning everyone from medical professionals to fellow abductees, Whitley realizes the only ones with the answers are the visitors themselves. At the film's climax, he willingly presents himself to the visitors. This is what makes COMMUNION transcend every other film about the phenomenon.
Director Phillipe Mora successfully creates a "you-are-there" atmosphere, letting the actors improvise a lot of their dialogue. There are two distinct moods: one, where things are brightly lit, secure, and normal; and secondly, the dark, unsettling world Strieber inhabits only with himself and with the visitors. Mora's direction is subtle, with cues in both the dialogue and a detailed, occasionally wry visual style.
Another plus is Eric Clapton's opening and closing theme music.
This is a seriously underrated film.
The director's cut (with commentary by Mora) is recommended.
First off, let me say that I'm a tad biased, as I have never failed to enjoy
Christopher Walken's film roles. His characters are always quirky but
always Walken...in much the same way every character Cary Grant or John
Wayne played was always Cary Grant or John Wayne. He has a personality that
is difficult to hide behind another persona, but which always adds a little
something to it.
This is a suitably creepy film, but is very realistically and believably handled, given the fantastic story matter. The visitors in this movie aren't quite the sadistic neo-vivisectionists of Fire in the Sky, but they are still unsettling. The blue men almost remind one of something out of Star Wars, but the presence of the willowy aliens keep that impression well in the background.
Walken carries the film, especially in his sojourns aboard the aliens' craft. One is never quite sure what is really happening...oft times it is like something out of an early David Lynch movie...lying on the borderline between funny and nightmarish.
The film does make you think about all angles of the situation, especially when you consider the point of views and personalities of the people at the abduction support group that Walken's character goes to, and his reaction to it.
The special effects are excellent...not gaudy, but quite realistic (for lack of a better term).
I've seen the real Whitley Strieber on television and read a few of his novels. Walken is definitely not Strieber, but I think he is the only actor who could've made this movie work.
After reading other users' comments, I concur that this film is not for everyone. I, also, am not a believer in this specific subject matter, but I don't let that interfere with my interpretation of the film. Nevertheless, this film absolutely scared the hell out of me. Walken's character, though often bizarre beyond the point of full understanding, is outstandingly well acted. Some may view this film as a silly alien movie. Others, such as myself, will feel absolute terror for Walken's character. Several scenes in the film have made their way into my head and are most disturbing indeed. Fans of this film will agree that specific visual and audio segments are the stuff of nightmares! Walken fans _must_ see this film, as should any alien buffs or film afficionados.
Whitley suddenly finds himself in an alien world, where once he tells
his abduction story, he becomes subject of, strangely enough, his own
ridicule, but also public skepticism. When his mind tells him something
even his own, never mind outsiders, own logic rejects, he truly finds
himself inside an alien nightmare of a reality. But this is the moment
he has his "communion", when he changes as a person. The symbolism is
powerful in this movie, suggesting that it's not what is obvious, but
that there is a hidden meaning behind a life-altering experience.
From a creative point of view, a story like this might be quite appealing, and regarded as extravagant, but how would we cope with somebody claiming to have lived such things? Or more, with our own minds telling us? And how are these things going to affect us? Are they going to derail us from our current paths, change our perception, or are we going to regard them as oddities beyond our grasp and understanding? There is a moment where Whitley says that they are all masks of God, perfectly underlining the fact that the strangest thing can actually be just a bit outside our roam of understanding, but still within some common frame of cosmic alignment. It's up to us weather we accept or reject it.
Much of the movie is Walken's merit, because his performance compensates the lack of elaborate special effects and there are some occasions where his facial expression is enough to make your skin crawl.
This film left a lasting impression on me, which didn't wane during the second and even third viewing. I have never thought about it as an "alien-movie". (Incidentally, the word "aliens" is never once mentioned in the film.) In my opinion, it is a film about the man's reaction to the inexplicable intruding into his orderly existence. It is all about people, not aliens. Each character has their own reaction to the strange. In fact, what we see is a "pilgrim's progress", with Walken fighting against various attempts (by others and by himself) to explain it away. It is a philosophical parable, saying that any explanation would be nothing but a mask over the truth, which cannot be expressed in words. As Walken says: "This cannot be it. I didn't come all this way for you to tell me that this is it."
Whitley Strieber is a writer who goes off with his family and couple of
friends to his holiday home in the woods. During their first night
there they experience a strange sensation involving a blinding light
and they all had the same startling experience. Whitley shrugs it off
as a dream, but then he starts hallucinating and seeing unearthly
figures. Is he going mad or was he abducted? So, he sees a psychiatrist
to go under hypnosis to see what really did happen to him.
How strangely surreal can this get! I was simply bug-eyed to what the hell was going on and Christopher Walken's spontaneously intense performance just kept you guessing and totally riveted. The story is supposedly based on true facts and lifted from Whitley Strieber's novel, which also did the screenplay for the film. This touchy subject matter will have a lot of its sceptics, but this piece I found to be an engrossing format that builds an authentically sincere approach to its controversial nature, even despite its very outlandish, quite silly and largely dreamy nature. But anyway, that's surrealism for ya! The story is emotionally moody and that can be attributed a lot Walken's erratic character - who rambles on until the cows come home about whatever he's thinking and cracking out rather humorous jokes. At times I didn't have a clue what he was going on about! But Walken is simply ace in a role that's fits him perfectly.
The first half of the film is actually creepy with its atmospheric lighting, bone rattling sound effects and stinging score. This side of the story is psychologically powering as we watch the realistic deterioration, traumatic stress and the denial of Whitley. When we get our first (and vastly memorable) glimpse of our out-of-town visitors too- it's visually surreal and eerily unnerving. It gave me the shivers! But that very feel changes course in the second half of the film were it becomes uneven and we get a break down on Whitely coming to terms and accepting his fate. But there's one thing that hits you and that this whole joint feels like one large dream with it's change in moods, bizarre hallucinations, blurry intentions and that you'll forget about large chunks of it after experiencing it. Yeah, it's rather forgettable with only a couple of scenes that stick with you and that's basically the whack-out sequences. I don't know, but I was expecting a little more to come out of the layout and it does clock off with some meandering scenes, but if Walken was on screen it was hard not to be compelled. The script can get a bit self-indulgent and distant, while the sweeping guitar riffs are terribly dated. Although it's a low-budgeted flick the special effects are well implemented and the rubbery alien designs are adeptly crafted. Philippe Mora who brought us such films like "The Howling 2 and 3" adds his distinguishable style and generates some extremely haunting and effective build-ups. His confidence in the production and that in Walken makes his direction one of the film's standing assets. The rest of the cast pale in comparison to Walken, but Lindsey Crouse as Whitley's on-edge wife and Frances Sternhagen as Dr. Janet Duffy work off him greatly. I got to say that the best time to watch this one - is late night I guarantee.
It's not totally successful, but it's an interestingly odd project with capable direction by Mora and a sensational central performance from Walken.
I guess different things haunt different people. This movie absolutely
me. First off... I don't believe in aliens. That being said, the scene
with the alien
looking around the wall of Walken's house has been burned into my retina
I will never forget it. Nothing has kept me up at night like that since
Sure - there is bad stuff in this film, and Walken's character is almost too eccentric to take. But if you want a sit-alone-in-the-dark film that isn't Hollywood or hack/slash and will scare the snot out of you, give it a try.
This movie remains one of Walken's best performances to date. Forget "Deer Hunter", he is one of two things that carry this film. It's him and the aliens, and that's it, but what a great film, anyway. The X-Files, though a good show, never quite reaches the level of freakiness that "Communion" has in moments like those in which Walken confronts the aliens. At one point, he states upon waking up to a suspected abduction that, "I don't want to think about that so, I go back to bed." There are so many classic lines of dialogue between Walken and the aliens that the movie reaches a point where it seems almost like a bizarre, personal delusion--portrait of a madman rather than alien abductions.
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