W. R.: Mysteries of the Organism (W.R. - Misterije organizma) (1971)

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

Movie Info

"W.R." is pioneering sexologist Wilhelm Reich, whose precedent-breaking theories concerning carnal behavior and politics (including the invention of the orgone box) made him persona non grata in most psychoanalytic circles. By all accounts, Reich began his career brilliantly - as the next great successor to Freud and Jung; he then delved into extraordinarily controversial work that divided his critics, leading some to conclude that Reich had experienced a psychotic break from reality. Dusan Makavejev is the equally controversial Yugoslavian director fascinated by Reich's theories. This essay film by Makavejev - his first major work - constitutes a witty, free-form riff on the director's perception of Reichian philosophies as the basis of individual and collective sexual liberation. Makavejev elucidates the Reichian mindset via interviews with the doctor's relatives and colleagues (we even hear from Reich's barber!) Also illustrated is the ongoing conflict between the free-thinking disciples of W.R.'s sociopolitical attitudes and the adherents of sterile Stalinism. Over the course of the picture, Makavejev journeys to the U.S. and interviews such American sexual liberationists as Screw magazine editor Al Goldstein and Betty Dodson. Woven into the factual proceedings is a fictional plotline concerning the romance between Reich adherent Milena and uptight Soviet athlete Vladimir Ilyich. Though the film was never released in Makavejev's native Yugoslavia, WR: Mysteries of the Organism firmly established the iconoclastic filmmaker's international reputation. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Rating:
NC17
Genre:
Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
Criterion Collection

Cast

Milena Dravic
as Beautician
Ivica Vidovic
as Russian
Wilhelm Reich
as Himself
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Critic Reviews for W. R.: Mysteries of the Organism (W.R. - Misterije organizma)

All Critics (13) | Top Critics (6)

No excerpt available.

November 16, 2011
Time Out
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | May 26, 2008
Variety
Top Critic

The wittiest and possibly truest thing in it is an analysis of Stalinist propaganda films as displaced pornography.

Full Review… | November 6, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

ndeed, it's hard to think of a headier mix of fiction and nonfiction, or sex and politics, than this brilliant 1971 Yugoslav feature by Dusan Makavejev.

Full Review… | November 6, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Although it seemed like some kind of breakthrough at the time, Makavejev's film isn't improving with age.

Full Review… | August 15, 2007
Time Out
Top Critic

It is no wonder then that the film, which begins by proclaiming that life should be joyful, turns out to be one of the gloomiest of recent memory.

Full Review… | May 21, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

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

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.

Jacob Gehman
Jacob Gehman

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.

Eric Broome
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

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.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

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