Timid Sasha gets up, runs through a brutal hierarchy of shithead children, through all the mirrors and reflections on water that young Tarkovsky can muster, attends a disappointing violin lesson, then things are looking up when he befriends a steamroller driver from the courtyard.
I figure the kid’s gonna get beaten up at some point, and he does, so the real tension is from wondering what will happen to the violin. Will it survive, will the shithead kids destroy or deface it, or will they break Sasha’s spirit so he destroys it himself, a la young Jodorowsky in Endless Poetry? Well it’s the first one, but there’s a scene when he’s run off to watch buildings get demolished with his steamrolling buddy and the shitheads find the violin left behind, then it’s untouched when Sasha returns, so I’d like to think there’s more to that story and it got cut for time. Remarkable little movie, with beautiful color on the blu-ray.
“As an aphrodisiast, Dr. Stringfellow proposes the use of synthetic aphrodisiac drugs to assist those who wish to attain a fully three-dimensional sexuality.”
I rented this on VHS from Movies Worth Seeing (RIP) back in 2000-2002, watched and hated it. Now it’s in lovely high-def on my Scanners blu-ray, and I am older and more tolerant, so time to give it another shot. And I still hate it, but the visuals are extremely sharp and it has interesting resonance with Scanners.
The story, or perhaps the backstory, is told via narrator, with total silence at all other times (so no sync sound on the action). Eight subjects underwent brain surgery to extend the natural electrochemical network of the human brain to provide telepathic capabilities. So far so Scanners, but there’s more. The psychics are said to have strange reactions when in the same room as each other, and one “pierced his skull with an electric drill, an act of considerable symbolic significance.”
It’s set at a sanatorium in the woods, which I admit is wonderfully well photographed, as are the actors. The guy who we’ll call the star wears a cape with a giant amulet and carries a cane. I wish I could get away with this look, but I can’t – and neither can he. He appears at all times to be a pretentious film student, which would sink the movie if it didn’t sink itself in other ways, by being dull at all times, by depriving us of sound except for the posh intellectual narration, by having the psychics suck on pacifiers. He even uses slow-mo at times, as if the movie wasn’t already slow enough. In recent interviews, Cronenberg says it works better if you’re stoned. Four of the seven actors were also in Crimes of the Future, which I was going to double-feature with this but chickened out, and one actor got as far as The Dead Zone 13 years later.