Thursday, October 2, 2008


1991; written and directed by E. Elias Merhige

Begotten isn't frightening because it contains violence and gore, even though there's plenty of both. Begotten is frightening because every image and sound within it is so alien. It almost seems impossible that the film was created by a human being on planet Earth, and yet, you know it was. And it's terrifying.

The synopsis does about as much justice to the film as describing the Mona Lisa as a picture of a woman smiling. But here it is just the same. "God disembowels himself with a straight razor. The spirit-like Mother Earth emerges, venturing into a bleak, barren landscape. Twitching and cowering, the Son Of Earth is set upon by faceless cannibals."

Every word is true, but falls far short of actually experiencing Begotten for yourself. Shot in the grainiest of black and white, and accompanied by a soundtrack made up primarily of nature sounds (and not a bit of dialog) Begotten seems more like a nightmare burned directly onto film than a mere motion picture.

Occasionally compared to David Lynch's Eraserhead -- the way one might compare hard-core porn to a Harlequin romance -- Begotten can be confounding and frustrating. But surrender to its bizarre rhythms and imagery and you'll find yourself in a new world, one that distorts your view of the real one long after the film's 78 minutes are done.

(Another apt comparison would be to the videotape in The Ring. Both share a similar style of images and editing techniques, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the makers of The Ring were influenced by Begotten.)

I don't expect you to add Begotten to your Netflix queue based on my recommendation alone. So take a look at the clip below. It's ten minutes long, but you should know by the end of the first whether Begotten is something you want inside your head. Because once you see it, that's exactly where it will stay.

(Some images may not be safe for work.)


Mike Arnzen said...

I saw this film shortly after it came out... but had completely forgotten the title! Thanks for the, I think! What a disturbing memory. Ugh. A truly bleak nightmare of a film.

C. Michael Cook said...

"Truly bleak nightmare" is right. As I was writing this post, I was amazed to discover that the film is only 78 minutes long. Seems much longer -- and older than just 1991.