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Bodysong (18)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

AS noble as the intentions are behind Bodysong, it is hard to figure out why it has been made for the cinema, given that it feels more comfortable as the art installation it so clearly is.

The film has been simultaneously developed by first-time writer-director, Simon Pummell, as a movie, a website and a gallery installation, and tackles the difficult task of providing an overview of human life, from birth to death, via childhood, puberty, love, sex, war and old age.

As such, Pummell and his team of researchers have spent years trawling through film, video and TV archives, some of them based on home movie footage, to deliver an all-encompassing portrait of the human condition, taking in the highs and the lows, as well as the perversions and extremes.

Driven by a distinctive and frequently haunting score from Radiohead’s guitarist, Jonny Greenwood, it is a thoroughly riveting affair, which can be as uplifting, at times, as it is depressing; while its decision not to shy away from anything can make for some pretty challenging viewing.

There are no words, only music and images, beginning with the development of the child in the womb, and numerous births, before taking us on a whirlwind tour of life and, eventually, death.

It does, ultimately, outstay its welcome, by choosing to then highlight the rituals, celebrations, and initiations that occur in societies around the world, and occasionally feels repetitive, but there is no denying that the intentions behind the movie are good, and that the majority of what’s on-screen provides plenty of food for thought.

The more shocking imagery comes in the middle stages, when perverted sex gives way to violence and, eventually, war, to produce harrowing images of mounds of corpses from a concentration camp, and various human rights atrocities (some of which are etched in our collective sub-conscious), but there are equally beautiful moments, particularly when capturing the playful innocence of youth, or a burgeoning love between two people.

Pummell’s research looks to have been exhaustive, and, according to the publicity, has been drawn from sources as varied as early Russian cinema, to home movies and, even, Saudi TV.

And while viewing it can be similarly exhausting, particularly when confined in the trappings of a cinema, it possesses a unique visceral beauty which undoubtedly stems from the originality of its premise.

Yet as worthy as it remains, throughout, I couldn’t escape the feeling that this really would be better suited to a gallery, where viewers can take time to appreciate its imagery and meaning at length, and where they can choose which elements of it they wish to view.

And with that in mind, viewers should make use of the website, which provides an interactive companion to the images on show, providing a useful back story to each one, which fans of the project will find indispensable.

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