Begotten | Chicago Reader

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Made in 1989 but apparently first released in 1991, this remarkable if extremely upsetting and gory black-and-white experimental feature by E. Elias Merhige doesn't have any dialogue and lacks a plot or even a series of actions one can easily follow. But what you can make out is so horrific you may not want to know more. Working with filters and rephotographing his original footage in various ways, Merhige reportedly devoted ten hours of work to processing each minute of this 78-minute film, and the sheer otherworldliness of the grainy, “overexposed” images is hard to forget. Evoking Alexander Sokurov and Francis Bacon as well as early David Lynch and a great many splatter films, the medieval, allegorical plot begins with a figure identified as God in the credits eviscerating himself; an Eve figure emerges from his entrails and inseminates herself with his corpse, and she and the resultant child wind up on a pilgrimage leading to further gore, pain, and devastation when they encounter a nomadic tribe. If you're squeamish you should avoid this like the plague; others may find it hard to shake off the artistry and originality of this visionary effort. And if you're looking to be freaked out you shouldn't pass it up.

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