ByPaul Donovan, writer at
A jerk with an opinion. An explorer of transgressive cinema. See more things about movies at
Paul Donovan

This 1973 French piece of surrealist cinema will entrance some people, offend others, and frustrate the rest.

1. The thing you need to know about surrealist cinema is that they are kind of anti-movies, because they refuse to follow a rational plot. Trying to make sense of them is usually an exercise in futility, because they mess with your brain, so they are only appreciated by certain types of people. This movie is one of the more famous of the genre.

2. This movie has more of a plot than many surrealist films. It’s kind of about an epileptic boy named Aden who has seizures when he watches his repressive mom have rough sex. He grows up and kind of kills his mother, then escapes into the desert where he meets a magical man named Marvel. They spend time acting like camels and turning day into night. They go back to the city, and do more weird things.

3. It was directed by Fernando Arrabal, who was a member of the Panic Movement with people like Alejandro Jodorowsky (this movie feels a lot like a Jodorowsky film). One of his artistic goals was to use destruction to find beauty. This perspective is illustrated in the movie.

4. Like most surrealist films, it is full of random, bizarre scenes that sometimes pop on and off the screen so quickly that they’re easy to miss.

5. There is a lot of religious iconography that is treated in ways that some people will consider blasphemous. I can't show you what happens next in this scene.

6. There is also a good amount of sexual imagery. In one scene, the mom lights Aden's penis like a candle. I'm not going to show you that scene, either. Here's a wedding scene, instead.

7. It’s possible to find different interpretations of the film, but there is no “correct” way to view it.

8. Even 40 years later, some scenes are still considered pretty graphic and shocking

9. Some people love this movie. Some people detest it. Some are just mystified. But that’s what surrealistic cinema is for - to shock you out of your regular reality.

What do you think? Is the move still effective today?
Are you even a fan of surrealism in cinema?
Leave some points below!


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