Sweet Movie – Leaves a Sour Taste in Your Mind


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I watched this classic 1974 experimental flick some time ago, but a recent conversation with another whose seen the film has re-ignited my interest. Sweet Movie, directed by Dusan Makavejev, features two stories – one about Ms. Monde (newly crowned Miss Virginity), who flees her husband and his gold-plated penis and seeks refuge in a scat-loving commune; the other tale involves Anna Planeta, a beautiful sailor who seduces young boys and a Battleship Potemkin refugee aboard her candy-filled ship with Lenin’s head (According to wikipedia, the papier mache bust is of Karl Marx) on the brow.

Sweet Movie force-feeds its viewer the ugliness and absurdity of the world while masking itself with sweetness and sexuality. When I watched the film, I was among 30-something frat boys who adored Jackass antics and was always up for observing immoral or obscene material. But, within an hour of watching this film, they were literally squirming in their seats, fast forwarding to moments that seemed watchable (tits, ass, and sex) only to find that seconds later such scenes were corrupted by the grotesque.

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There is, indeed, a method to Makavejev’s madness, as he injects psycho-dramatic practices into the movie’s concept. As the NY Times pointed out in its review of Sweet Movie, Makavejev bases his message on psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich’s theories: Bombard the audience with images that aim to repel and disgust, thus “awakening” the viewer and disabling the catharsis ordinarily expected after watching sensible, non-offensive films. This same type of dynamic resembles the principles of Brechtian Theater, which disregards the formulaic and traditional themes of performance art in order to shock and scare its audience into remembering that the theater cannot replace the reality of their lives, however dismal and humorless their lives may be. This type of art leaves the viewer with a distinct sense of discomfort and, hopefully, re-introduces them to a world that does not have happy endings, a world that does not comprehend what happy endings actually mean. in Sweet Movie, this is made all the more evident; actual footage of Holocaust experimentation and “baby gymnastics” are dispersed throughout the film.

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Referring back to the conversation I shared with someone who watched the movie, he discovered that the most uncomfortable scene for him was not the shitting competition, not the violent death in a bed of sugar, not even the scenes of emaciated bodies being thrown into shallow graves by the Nazis. It is when Anna Planeta, dressed only in lace lingerie, gyrates and flirts with four young boys. As Planeta’s genitals are just inches away from the children’s faces and hands, he believed he saw the lines of morality not blurred, but utterly destroyed.

For that purpose, watch Sweet Movie.

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