Plot: What’s it about?
WR: Mysteries of the Organism begins as a documentary, looking at the life and theories of Wilhelm Reich. A philosopher and psychologist, Reich was an assistant to Sigmund Freud and had a competent reputation, until he moved to American and descended into a kind of madness. Some would call him a misunderstood genius, but his theories would become so offbeat, even his most devoted supporters would have doubts. He claimed the orgasm to be the foundation of well being, then tied his theory into politics and even botched attempts to harness orgasmic powers. He would die in prison. The film then switches gears to follow Milena (Milena Dravic), a woman in Yugoslavia who sees free love as a path to true enlightenment. This kind of sexual freedom is the revolution she feels like tear down walls, even political ones. The movie even travels to New York to look in on a couple of offbeat characters, one of whom is a transvestite.
This movie is bound to divide viewers, some will find it to be inspired genius and others will see it as pretentious nonsense, such is the nature of the beast. WR: Mysteries of the Organism is not a film with a defined presence, instead the viewer is left to put their own thoughts together on the experience. I am sure director Dusan Makavejev had a specific vision in mind, but it is obvious he sought to push his audience to think beyond the end credits. I can’t imagine much discussion after a single session, as this is the kind of movie you need to see multiple times to try to wrap your mind around. I won’t call it a masterpiece and I won’t call it trash, it is fun to watch, but didn’t strike intense notes with me. But I do appreciate original concepts and Makavejev has crafted a unique picture here, that is for sure. So if you’re an adventurous cinematic kind, then by all means give WR: Mysteries of the Organism a shot, Criterion’s DVD is a great way to soak it in.
Video: How does it look?
WR: Mysteries of the Organism is presented in full frame, as intended. The nature of this material precludes it from a pristine transfer, but Criterion’s restoration has worked wonders. There is very little grain or debris beyond the expected levels, but at the same time, digital noise is also minimal. So this hasn’t been softened to death by the digital process, which is great news, as that tends to happen often. I found colors to be bolder than expected, while contrast is consistent and up to snuff. This won’t turn heads, but for the material, the transfer is top notch.
Audio: How does it sound?
The mono soundtrack is what it is, a basic, somewhat thin soundtrack. The thin texture is never much of an issue though, as the material has very limited audio demands. So if the background noise gets a little muffled or dialogue is a touch thin, it isn’t as crucial as it might be in other cases. As it stands, the elements seem in proper order, with no serious problems to report. As usual with this label, optional English subtitles are provided.
Supplements: What are the extras?
An unusual audio commentary is up first, as an actor reads excerpts from a book on the film’s content. This provides some insight into some of the concepts displayed, but isn’t well executed. The director himself speaks in two interviews, each of which runs about half an hour in length. One is from shortly after the film’s release and the other is a newly recorded piece. In the vintage interview, Makavjev talks about the ideas within the film, while the newer piece is more of a reflection, so it has a lot of insight. Another short interview is also here, as the director talks about the cleaned up version shown on British television. The last supplement is Hole in the Soul, an autobiographical short film made by the director which runs just over fifty minutes. Not as impressive as the main feature of course, but a welcome inclusion.