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A "metaphysical splatter film" that was praised by Susan Sontag as "one of the 10 most important films of modern times," Begotten is a very grainy, often powerful work of experimental cinema which seems to land somewhere between David Lynch's surreal Eraserhead and James Broughton's heavily symbolic Dreamwood. The film opens with God Killing Himself: a man in rags slicing into his own belly as he spews dark fluid and oozes filth. Mother Earth emerges, or is born, from this excoriation and travels to a primeval forest. There she gives birth to Son of Earth-Flesh on Bone: a quivering man-child. The two are found by a tribe of faceless, druid-like figures dressed in rags, and though mother and child are at first revered, they are finally tortured, dismembered, and buried by the tribe. From their grave, life begins, and flora emerges from the wasteland. Filmed on black & white reversal film and then re-photographed onto a black & white negative, E. Elias Merhige's stark, grainy images of a squirming, oozing, mythical Creation are not easy to digest or to forget. Merhige's own experimental theater troupe, Theaterofmaterial, performs throughout. … More
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Critic Reviews for Begotten
Mr. Merhige's concentration, while impressive in its way, seems almost entirely self-contained, with little effort to engage an audience on even the level of myth; the film's approach is far too grotesque for that.
If you're squeamish you should avoid this like the plague; others may find it hard to shake off the artistry and originality of this visionary effort. And if you're looking to be freaked out you shouldn't pass it up.
Plays too much like an earnest repertory-theater group going through various bizarro configurations.
A passion play that wavers between amateur-hour incompetence and an undeniable directorial vision.
I have said 'I have never seen anything like it' about other films, but it has never applied to something so entirely alien as this.
Audience Reviews for Begotten
God takes the shape of a woman and guts herself with a scalpel while breathing like Michael Myers then shits herself and we get to watch shit run down her leg for 3 minutes? how the hell could the world's most gifted filmmaker possibly show a scene after that and shock us?More
God disembowels himself with a straight razor, among other metaphysical atrocities in this nearly narrativeless 70 minute experimental feature where each frame of film has been painstakingly transformed and distressed to create a starkly beautiful chiaroscuro universe. A very hard film to rate; a successful, if painfully overlong, visual experiment, but the overall effect is almost the opposite of entertainment.More
At last, a film for people who found "Eraserhead" too commercial. This underground horror relic starts with a twitching God figure disemboweling himself and giving birth to a full-grown woman (credited as "Mother Earth"). She returns the favor by bringing him to orgasm and manually impregnating herself with his semen. From there, the story takes a strange turn. Features include abduction, rape and various ritualistic activities that defy interpretation. The plot has been described as a retelling of the creation myth, but trying to follow a linear story is purely optional. Suffice to say, this a great movie if you're a fan of convulsions. There is no dialogue, and the soundtrack is an alien mix of birds, crickets, flies, low drones and what sounds like the ambient splashes of a toilet tank.
The visual look of "Begotten" is impossible to forget. Its gritty, black-and-white texture was apparently created through shooting with reversal stock and then re-photographing each frame for an extra layer of distortion. Often, it's difficult to tell what is happening and the image approaches pure abstraction. It's a relief that this film is only 78 minutes, because further length would defy almost anyone's endurance. Surprisingly, director E. Elias Merhige went on to craft the considerably more accessible (if equally macabre) "Shadow of the Vampire."
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