J.D. Lafrance
WR: Mysteries of the Organism DVD Review

WR: Mysteries of the Organism

July 12, 2007

Director: Dušan Makavejev,
Starring: Milena Dravić, Ivica Vidović, Jagoda Kaloper, Jackie Curtis, Jim Buckley, Betty Dodson,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

WR: The Mysteries of the Organism (1971) is one of those cinematic oddities that could only have come out of the 1960s and be made (and released) in the 1970s when pushing the boundaries of cinema was prevalent. It is a funky hybrid of documentary, fiction and experimental film – the brainchild of Dušan Makavejev – that examines the “life energy” created from an orgasm and its relation to Communist Yugoslavia. The result is a cheeky political manifesto of sorts.

This film examines the studies of Dr. Wilhelm Reich, an Austrian scientist who posited a theory of orgasmic life energy and was subsequently imprisoned in the United States and also deemed insane by the government. Included is footage of his orgone accumulator, a unique wooden box-type apparatus that helped people with low life energy. Makavejev’s film examines and champions Reich’s work, interviewing people who knew him.

WR also integrates a free-form narrative about a good-looking Slavic woman and Reichian feminist named Milena (Dravic) who tries to seduce a repressed ice skater named Vladimir (Vidovic). Milena acts, at times, as the film’s mouthpiece, preaching sexual freedom like Dr. Ruth meets V.I. Lenin. Makavejev cuts back and forth between documentary and fictional material, even throwing in clips of Nazi and Communist propaganda, creating a bizarre stew that pays homage to the silent films of Sergei Eisenstein.

What saves WR from merely espousing pretentious philosophical twaddle, is its playful attitude. The point both parts of the film appear to be making is that openly discussing and examining sex is perceived as a threat by the powers that be. For example, Reich was persecuted throughout his entire life because of his beliefs and unusual scientific experiments. However, WR proved to be too radical for Makavejev’s native Yugoslavia where it was banned for 16 years, sending him into self-imposed exile.

Special Features:

There is an audio commentary of Daniel Stewart reading text from critic Raymond Durgnat’s book on the film. These words not only tell us what we’re watching (which gets tedious) but offers some analysis about what we are watching.

“Hole in the Soul” is a satirical, autobiographical film that Makavejev made fro the BBC in 1994. Like with WR, he juxtaposes fictional and documentary footage ironically to create a playfully political tone.

“Dušan Makavejev Interview, 1972” was done for Danish television. Not surprisingly, he talks about his political beliefs and how they affect his art and life. He also talks about his intentions for WR.

“Dušan Makavejev Interview, 2006” was recorded exclusively for this DVD. The filmmaker reflects on his exile from Yugoslavia and being labeled an avant garde artist. He also talks about Dr. Reich, the primary influence on WR.

Finally, there are “Clips from the ‘Improved’ Version.” WR had been banned from being shown on British television for years and so Channel Four approached Makavejev in 1992 to make edits so that his film could be shown. He used computer graphics to alter his film in such a way that it was just as subversive and satirical. Included, are a few clips with the filmmaker commenting on them.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 73%



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