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W. R.: Mysteries of the Organism (W.R. - Misterije organizma) Reviews

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AJ V

Super Reviewer

September 5, 2010
This is an intricate, complex, interesting film. I'm not sure what all the Russian political stuff is about, but I found it engaging anyway. It's a pretty strange movie, but interesting if you like weird interesting movies of the 70s.
Eric B

Super Reviewer

February 15, 2010
Dusan Makavejev's "W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism" simply defies classification. Perhaps it's more of a "think piece" than anything belonging to a standard film genre.

"W.R." refers to the controversial, possibly demented psychologist Wilhelm Reich. And most of the film's 84 minutes are devoted to promoting his ideas, in ways both subtle and explicit. Sometimes, very explicit.

The first 25 minutes are almost a straightforward documentary about Reich's life and work. For the movie's purposes, the key details are his Marxist politics and a belief in sexual ecstasy as a central regulator of one's health and stability. Part of the latter theory is his dubious focus on a ubiquitous, blue-tinted energy which he named "orgone." He even suggested that replenishing the body's orgone levels would cure cancer. He invented two notorious devices for channeling this precious force: the cloudbuster (a series of sky-aimed pipes which allegedly could produce rainfall) and the orgone accumulator (a person-sized booth lined with layers of wood and metal). Eventually, Reich's ideas became so contested that the U.S. government actually destroyed many of his books and contraptions. He died in 1957.

The manifesto of "W.R." arrives early: "Comrade lovers, for your health's sake, f*ck freely." The remaining scenes cut between multiple people who generally follow this principle. The Fugs' Tuli Kupferberg walks the streets dressed like a soldier, bellowing mock-military rhetoric while waving a toy gun. Professional plaster-caster Nancy Godfrey takes a mold of a young man's erection (yes, the film shows hard penises). A glittery drag queen eats ice cream with his lover and talks about his first fling. An artist discusses painting portraits of people masturbating. Women writhe in feigned sexual heat as cathartic therapy. There's also some simulated stock footage of Joseph Stalin. But the largest chunk of time is devoted to two female radicals who live together and stridently preach the ways of Marxist free love. One of them is frequently nude, and even has what appears to be genuine intercourse onscreen. The girls attend an ice-skating performance with an amusing Communist slant and end up luring a handsome Russian skater back to their lair. This subplot has a bizarre, unexpected conclusion which arguably does not fit the movie's themes so well, but rest assured that the skater winds up crooning a quite lovely folk song.

The film's shambling structure is somewhat charming but mostly irksome and, to make matters worse, I couldn't parse at least a dozen lines due to white subtitles being laid over light-colored imagery. Meanwhile, the opening credits waste a perfectly good egg.
shannylee38
shannylee38

Super Reviewer

February 8, 2008
Although it is a VERY strange film, it is a must see because of two things: Sex and Politics. It cannot get better than this. The film might seem a bit to sophisticated and philosophical at times, but there are still other things to enjoy!!!
It is not a typical conventional narrative film, but a collage which brings two separate subjects into one concept that might makes sense in the end. You might not understand what in the world im saying, but just enjoy yourself watching this "documentary" and you'll understand.
Dont forget!!! There is Sex and Politics!!! It definitely wont be a disappointment!
February 19, 2014
I cannot criticize this film for the direction it went; after all, it is intending to mix politics with everything else. Be that as it may, I'm a stupid American who can barely comprehend current American politics, let alone the politics of some other country from 40+ years ago. Most of that went flying way over my head.

The stuff about Wilhelm Reich was interesting, though I got the feeling that this film wasn't intending to instruct on any level because I don't feel instructed at all. So if I had my druthers, trade me weird politics for moar Reich.
February 21, 2013
My second film to see by Serbian provocateur Dusan Makavejev (the first being Sweet Movie), W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism is a thoroughly engaging and original blend of documentary and fictional cinema that simultaneously focuses upon the life of Wilhelm Reich (W.R.) and explores the nature of revolution in both sexual and socialist senses. W.R. is a film about freedom: freeing ourselves and freeing society. However, it is also a film about our ideas of freedom get perverted in different ways: these different perversions of freedom are represented by both the supposedly democratic freedom of the U.S. and the supposedly communist freedom of the U.S.S.R. The film paints both as totalitarian regimes that restrict and oppress individuals by twisting the ideologies of democracy and communism into what Marx would have called false consciousness. At the heart of Makavejev's film are the theories of Reich, who believed that we could liberate ourselves through orgasmic energy, a kind of energy that liberates from the ego and from the society that forces repression on us. Reich provides an interesting figure because he fled Europe to escape the totalitarian regimes that arose there only to meet with similar discrimination in the United States, where his books were burned in true Fahrenheit 451 style.

Featuring graphic sex, documentary footage, and surrealistic imagery, W.R. is a constantly engaging, funny, riveting, and always thought-provoking film that blurs the line between genres and shows the line between seemingly opposed ideologies is not as clear as it might seem.
August 6, 2012
An interesting film about love, non-conformity, and joy. It is a brilliant and some what funny look at government control and breaking out to voice an opinion. It has a gripping narrative and ideal look at sex, freedom, and liberty. The film was banned in countries due to it's "pornographic" nature. Well sure there are moments of strong graphic sex/nudity but it doesn't ruin the movie. There is a particularly weird sequence where a woman is at an apartment complex preaching to a large crowd to listen to her, suddenly cutting to her roommate is having sex with a guy. It's odd and a bit out of place but it is kind of funny. This is an interesting piece that has a lot of deep feelings but it sure is a movie I wasn't sure about and I am glad to say it is good.
jes25924
August 21, 2008
There's a documentary in this film about Wilhelm Riech that is fascinating, and a mini-film about the relationship between a Yugoslavian activist and a Russian Ice skater, lots of old propaganda films featuring Stalin, and man dressed as a soldier wa...(read more) lking around New York and reciting poems in voice over.

Willhelm Riech was a psychologist and communist studying Freud, who came to the conclusion that the orgasm was essential to health, life, and world socialism. From here became a celebrity, guru, anti-pornography activist, and a bit of a mad scientist, until his writings were seized and burned by the US. Food and Drug administration, and he was eventually incarcerated(though for what this film is unclear).

The mini-film seems weird at first but makes sense if you think of the man as Russia and the Soviet System (which banned Riech's work and drove him out, as would the US later), and the woman as Yugoslavia (where the director is from). According to Riech there can be no true communism or true democracy until sexuality is made free, and the workers maintaining a healthy regiment of orgasms (the bodies self regulating life energy?).

Like that crazy general in Dr. Strangelove, who became "enlightened" when he refused to give woman any more of his precious "life energy", Riech and director Makavejev and by extension Kubrik seem to think many of our political tensions have sexual relationships we ignore, until it manifests as it's inverse, violence. Which is what I gather the "talking head" at the end is supposed to signify, the horrors of the world, without Riech's orgasms, deep breathing and primal screaming (actually the part that made the most uncomfortable), and Orgone accumulator Boxes(which look a lot like small closets).

Riech's free love world is very much one of the 70's, a time before venereal disease, a time before public and ritual rape in Congo became the military weapon of choice(as a horrific 60 minutes report last night discussed...yeesh), before internet porn, but only a year after the Stonewall Riots, a strange time for sex and the state.

Anyway, it was very well made, the music by very early underground rock band "The Fugs" stands out a lot in particular. The editing though jarring at first, is also the great device of this film, alternating fact, fiction, and dramatization in ways which were revolutionary for its time and pretty fresh now. The real revolution of this movie is probably found in it's technical skill with the material, which veers from comic, to realistic, to pornographic without announcing itself.

The scene with everyone passing the egg yoke, was the one I found most effective. Nothing is said in that scene, but there's a palpable sexual tension and repulsion in it, that sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

"Absurdistan" is a word I learned, for life under Soviet control, how many felt like the bureaucracies had reduced their lives to a kind of absurd theater of Kafka story(people forced to publicly ask to be executed, etc.), a lot of the films and art to come under this umbrella is similarly fragmented and anarchic, which may help to explain "W.R. Mysteries of The Organism", which is an interesting, and very stylized, if dated curiosity, and look at sex at communism.
October 5, 2007
Freakish, bizarre, unfocused, and only moderately satisfying. The movie is hugely sexed up, starting off as a documentary about a sexual scientist, but ranging freely between several other stories. The movie tries hard to desensitize the viewer to it's own sexual nature by upping the ante at almost every turn, climaxing with a bizarre sexual encounter and murder. While interestingly shot and concepted, there's little more to focus on in this movie than a broad idea.
February 11, 2013
The excesses of the political right & left get skewered in the bizarre documentary about sexual politics and the politics of sex
August 31, 2012
Ah, those were the days. When you could have films about discredited psychoanalysts with weird film collages, and half of it be some story about a Soviet ice skater meeting a couple of firebrand revolutionaries, and the other half be a documentary about Wilhelm Reich...and have a few performance artists illustrate parts of Reich's philosophy by getting up to no good? One of the oddest films I've seen in many a long day, and I really enjoyed it.
June 26, 2012
If there was any film that could be described as a film collage, this would be it. This mixture of fiction, documentary, interview, sex, comedy, and then some is one of the most original films ever made. Whereas this experimental exercise into the thought of Wilhelm Reich might be off putting to some,if you continue to watch you're going to have a great time. While this is a weird film, at no point does this film become boring and manages to stay nice and fresh. This film takes the theory of montage to the complete next level and pushes it as far as it can go into one of the greatest films ever made. It's worth every minute.
February 16, 2012
More fun and enjoyable on a high scale of camp than sweet movie. Nothing makes sense but in the world of avant garde dose it really need to? Very funny.
Danijel J
December 3, 2011
"Comrade Communists, fuck freely", shouts the narrator at the beginning of Dusan Makavejev's hilarious 1971. satire about sex and politics behind, but also, to a smaller extent, in front of the iron curtain. The film's destiny, it's safe to say, was already determent at the time of its release: it became an instant art house classic, retained a cult following even in these sexually more liberated, ideologically not so colorful times and it also marked a seventeen year hiatus from a targeted country for its creator. He eventually came back; the dream of communism is dead, as is his country for that matter, but WR: Mysteries of the Organism remains a great testament to the audacity of its creator and to the moment of time when the sixties started making their breakthrough to the east.

The film is based on the teachings of Wilhelm Reich, a student of Sigmund Freud, whose controversial ideas about the role of sex in people's lives brought him to trials in the mid fifties. He died in 1957. but left a number of followers who continued to explore his ideas. Makavejev used some of them in this film, the structure of which is not so easy to explain. It is a combination of fact and fiction, where the documentary content consists of interviews with Reich's family members and experts in his philosophy, who conduct a number of experiments to prove their theories. That part, set in the United States, is intercut with a fictional story about a beautiful Serbian Milena (Milena Dravic) who propagates philosopher's views in the communist Yugoslavia. While her randy roommate Jagoda (Jagoda Kaloper) mostly has sex or can be seen naked in the background, Milena preaches free love to the tenants of her building more passionately than any speech Yugoslav leader Tito ever gave. When she meets and becomes attracted to a sexually repressed Russian ice-skater Vladimir Iljic (Ivica Vidovic, obviously named after Lenjin), the whole east block becomes the target of Makavejev's biting humor.

The sole construction of this picture is a pleasure to watch, not surprisingly, considering it comes from probably the weirdest and most original director of the late sixties and early seventies. His juxtaposition may be influenced by the cinema of Godard, Eisenstein and Bunuel, but the style has Makavejev written all over it. Just see few other of his films, especially Innocence Unprotected, and you'll see what I mean.

The biggest mistake one could make is to call this exploitation due to the heavy sexual content. It's not, that's clear to anyone familiar with the nature of communism and with a small insight into Reich's work. What makes it exceptional is that Makavejev took the philosophy which was controversial even in the "liberal" West and applied his radical view of it on the conservative communist society, even if the society in question was the "the most liberal communist country". It's easy to see how this would trigger controversy upon its release.

If you choose to find one single meaning here (I won't, nor does Makavejev, I'm pretty sure of that), you will find this to be a cautionary tale, without the intention to shock, but to worn. By doing this, you could find the main idea to be the one about the dangers of dedication to any ideology that puts abstract ideas and ideological riddles in front of the individuals and their freedoms. But, for anyone who has seen it, it is clear that the reduction of this kind would be an unnecessary, and probably untrue, simplification.

I realize that everyone won't like WR. It doesn't have a structure of, what you'd call, a normal picture. But if you refuse to restrict your self to standard TV film narrative you might try with Makavejev, one of the directors whose work represents the most radical challenge to that convention.
July 25, 2011
This film completely forgoes traditional narrative structure and seamlessly mixes documentary style filmmaking with a fictional story of sorts. It makes bold statements about sex and politics and how they fit into that time and place (which was 1971 Yugoslavia). I doubt I will ever see another movie quite like it.
Joe W.
March 5, 2009
What a peculiar film, but I think an essential one, if only for its profound uniqueness. Dusan Makavejev constructs the story of a sexually liberated socialist group intercut with documentary snippets about Wilhelm Reich, as well as other figures of the sexual revolution to put their philosophies in context. The resulting film is something that resembles what would happen if the kids from Godard's [i]La Chinoise[/i] read Kinsey instead of Mao. Makavejev manages to make the film very entertaining in spite of its polemic nature, and it's quite funny in some parts. It's also chock full of fascinating notions about sex and politics, and I think this one is gonna require some repeat viewings for me to fully appreciate everything it has to offer.
Taylor B.
March 4, 2009
Ok this is probably the hardest movie I've reviewed so far. It was good...and very bizarre. It seemed really political most of the time, but some parts were really funny, others were extremely gross, and some were just people having sex. I wish the weird guy who busted through the wall was in it more, he was cool. Schoolboys and schoolgirls may like it, or some may not...
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