BEGOTTEN (E. Elias Merhige, 1990)- WebTv
Dir. E. Elias Merhige, 1990.
USA, 72 min.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 2 – 7:30 PM
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 8 – 7:30 PM
MONDAY, OCTOBER 20 – 10 PM
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” -John 3:16 (King James Bible)
Easily one of the most singular films in the history of experimental cinema, E. Elias Merhige’s BEGOTTEN is a deeply religious, allegorical nightmare carved onto celluloid distanced from place or time, uncovering visceral, primitivist brutality that may be unparalleled in the history of the moving image.
“One of the ten most important films of modern times.” -Susan Sontag
Despite its near-total lack of cultural reference points, the churning, repetitive, symbolic actions of the entities depicted on-screen—all players from Merhige’s radical Theater of Material troupe—suggest a broad mythology culled from sources as widespread as ancient Egyptian apologues, disparate pagan lore and, of course, Christian allegory. There is no dialogue or traditional narrative, yet BEGOTTEN’s hypnotic aesthetic and the engrossing actions of the film’s characters—named God Killing Himself, Mother Earth and Son Of Earth, Flesh On Bone—are never anything but riveting and pointed.
“…seems almost entirely self-contained, with little effort to engage an audience on even the level of moth; the film’s approach is far too grotesque for that. The experience of watching ‘Begotten’ can best be characterized as intense.” -Janet Maslin (NY Times)
BEGOTTEN was painstakingly re-photographed and optically printed in order to achieve the film’s iconic chiaroscuro, famously requiring up to 10 hours of post-processing for every minute of on-screen time. Its widest mainstream exposure came long after the festival circuit and art-house run, when the aesthetically-consonant, Goth-as-fuck Marilyn Manson tapped Merhige to direct his video for the song “Cryptorchid” from the 1996 album Antichrist Superstar, a video which ended up including quite a bit of footage from BEGOTTEN directly. After this, Merhige entertained an unlikely flirtation with Hollywood and the world of commercial video, directing SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000), SUSPECT: ZERO (2004) and one of the best Interpol music videos (for “The Heinrich Maneuver”… not a great song).
“Evokes Alexander Sokurov and Francis Bacon as well as early David Lynch and a great many splatter films… if you’re looking to be freaked out you shouldn’t pass it up.” -Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader)
[Trigger Warning: Extended, recurring scenes of violent religious ceremony.]