thu 30/05/2024

The Dance of Reality | reviews, news & interviews

The Dance of Reality

The Dance of Reality

Alejandro Jodorowsky returns as a director after three decades with a wild take on his own childhood

Director Alejandro Jodorowsky in 'The Dance of Reality' with his grandson as his childhood self

The British release of the first film made by Alejandro Jodorowsky since 1990’s The Rainbow Thief is an event. Although the Chile-born director disowned that, his reputation was secured with El Topo (1970), The Holy Mountain (1973) and consolidated with 1989’s Santa Sangre. In all, after his 1968 debut Fando y Lis, he has only completed six other films.

He was born in 1929 and The Dance of Reality (La Danza de la Realidad) could, conceivably, be his last (due to age) although its follow-up, Endless Poetry, is in production.

Jodorowsky was fêted by George Harrison and John Lennon. More recently, Nicolas Winding Refn has been an avowed fan, appeared at Jodorowsky retrospectives declaring the influence of the older director and featured him in his own works. Refn's 2011 film Drive was dedicated to Jodorowsky.  Frank Pavich's 2013 documentary Jodorowsky's Dune centred on the failed attempt to make a film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel in the Seventies (David Lynch later rose to the challenge). If there is a moment for Jodorowsky to capitalise on his name, it is now.

Alejandro Jodorowsky The Dance of Reality With his return to filmmaking after focusing on theatre and writing for comics, Jodorowsky has fashioned a surreal autobiography. It is his most linear – only linear, really – film to date and transforms his early life into a magical-realist chronicle in which members of his own family (who have appeared in his earlier films) play both him as a child and his father. (Pictured right, Jeremias Herskovits as the young Alejandro Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores as Sara Jodorowsky and Brontis Jodorowsky as Jaime Jodorowsky)

The Dance of Reality casts Jodorowsky’s son Brontis as his father Jaime. The young Alejandro is played by the director’s grandson Jeremias Herskovits. Alejandro Jodorowsky himself appears as a character unseen by all except his young counterpart, and is also the narrator. The film was mostly shot in the Chilean village of Tocopilla, where he grew up. The site of the actual shop run by his parents – Russian-Jewish immigrants – is used to recreate the store, from which Jaime sold women’s underwear and related garments. Jodorowsky’s father was a Communist and dressed like his idol Stalin, while also dressing his son in the same way (pictured below left). His mother, Sara (played with verve by Pamela Flores) wanted to be an opera singer. In the film, she sings all her lines: in effect, Jodorowsky has helped his mother posthumously realise her ambition.

It opens in the aftermath of the Wall Street Crash of 1929. The opening narration begins “money is like blood, it gives life if it flows. Money is like Christ, it blesses you if you share it.” The recitation ends: “there is no difference between conscience and death. There is no difference between death and wealth.” In Tocopilla, the young Alejandro is not yet directly affected by the effects of the financial meltdown, but the long golden hair (seen below left) he sports makes him a living reminder of his mother’s deceased father. Jaime forcibly has it cut off.

Alejandro Jodorowsky The Dance of Reality The film plays as two chapters. The first is about the difficult father-son relationship; the second, Jaime’s attempt to assassinate Ibáñez, then president of Chile. This did not happen in real life and, again, the director is realising one of his parent's wishes. Although Jaime becomes incapacitated, he eventually achieves a form of redemption by embracing the religious faith he had, as a Communist, rejected and makes his way home to Tocopilla.

As expected in a Jodorowsky film, there are many memorable scenes – some of which, of course, test the ideas of taste. Jaime beats disfigured mineworkers. Some have no legs. There is explicitly seen real female urination. There is a lengthy scene where young Alejandro is with his naked mother. There are cartoonish Nazi supporters. At the beginning, there is a fantastic – albeit executed with slightly rickety CGI – set-piece of fish raining down from the heavens.

The Dance of Reality is a wild ride and unlikely to bring Jodorowsky to the mainstream, although it is more disciplined than any of his previous films. But it is rich, warm and wonderful, and certainly a fine entry point into his oeuvre. Do see this.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for The Dance of Reality


Watch the trailer for The Dance of Reality

'The Dance of Reality' is unlikely to bring Jodorowsky to the mainstream, but it is rich, warm and wonderful


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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