(director/writer: Andrzej Zulawski; screenwriter: Frederic Tuten; cinematographer: Bruno Nuytten; editors: Marie-Sophie Dubus/Suzanne Lang-Willar; music: Andrzej Korzynski; cast: Isabelle Adjani (Anna/Helen), Sam Neill (Marc), Heinz Bennent (Heinrich), Margit Carstensen (Margie), Michael Hogben (Bob), Shaun Lawton (Zimmerman), Johanna Hofer (Heinrich’s mom), Carl Duering (Detective), Maximilian Ruethlein (Man with pink socks); Runtime: 127; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Marie-Laure Reyre; Anchor Bay Entertainment; 1981-France/West Germany-in English)

“Uncompromising demented cult oddity.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Self-exiled Russian-born Polish director Andrzej Zulawski (“Fidelity”/”The Third Part of the Night”/”The Silver Globe”), left Poland after clashes over his work with commie authorities prevented him from working, helms this uncompromising demented cult oddity. It’s a confusing highly symbolic arty/grindhouse surreal supernatural horror pic that’s stylish but too weirdly abstract to connect what exactly was the political message and what was meant by all those Freudian id symbols conjured up, which didn’t stop it from receiving in some circles a nod in its favor for being so heady and bizarre (the film’s co-star, the talented raised in New Zealand Sam Neill, said it was his favorite film that he was in). It features a divided Berlin represented by repeated background shots of the Berlin Wall, a nasty marriage breakup due to adultery, insanity, ghastly murders, the main characters cloned and the heroine having a messy miscarriage in a deserted subway station and later giving birth to a tentacled octopus-like monster (created by Carlo Rambaldi) and still later she fucks this octopus-like creature. If one is to understand this film of excesses, they might be helped to know that it was written by Zulawski after the breakup in his marriage.

Secret agent Marc (Sam Neill) returns to his Berlin home, near the Wall, from a mission with double-agents and learns his wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani) has left him for the obnoxious self-help Zen-like Heinrich (Heinz Bennent). The breakup leaves their young son Bob (Michael Hogben) under the care of the unstable clubfooted hooker friend of the couple’s, Margie (Margit Carstensen). The distraught Marc gets his ass kicked when he visits Heinrich’s apartment he shares with his elderly mom and attacks him. Marc has lost his will to live and decides to completely abandon his son, but misses wifey so much he has a complete nervous breakdown. Wifey also cracks, becoming volatile, hysterical and violent. She also abandons the conceited know-it-all Heinrich, and takes a secret apartment on her own to live with a monster she gave birth to. Hubby hires a pair of gay private detectives to locate his missing wife’s whereabouts and who she is living with. When they locate her living with a monster, they are brutally slain in the apartment.

The Americans and Brits found it too obscure and too nasty a gore fest, and for the most part hated it (during the eighties it was banned in England); while in France and among arthouse and grindhouse geeks, it was met with acclaim as a possible minor masterpiece. The subjective work weird-ed me out and left me more baffled than entertained, as it never let go of the pedal in this one-note absurdist shocking look at a broken-relationship. It’s the kind of horror pic that makes Polanski’s Repulsion (1965) and The Tenant (1976) seem sane in comparison (strange psychological films that I preferred to this nutty one).

Adjani’s hysterical weirdo performance earned her the Palm D’Or for Best Actress Award at Cannes.

REVIEWED ON 11/13/2010 GRADE: C+   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/