by Shannon McGrew
I've tried to come up with the best way to review "Begotten" and it's been difficult. "Begotten" is not an easy film to watch nor is it one that is easily understandable. I had heard about "Begotten" about a year or so ago when I was reading an article about the most disturbing horror movies ever made. I knew when I read the synopsis of the movie I was going to eventually have to see it, but the problem was it was extremely hard to get. I believe this adds to the mystery of the movie, because it's only on VHS and can sometimes be found on YouTube. I was able to go to a special screening and watch "Begotten" in a theatre this past week which was an incredible experience. For all of you that have seen "Begotten" I'm sure you are wondering, "How is she going to review this?" and for those who haven't seen it, I'm sure your interest has been peaked.
"Begotten" is directed by E. Elias Merhige (also known for directing the fantastic "Shadow of a Vampire") and essentially it is about the death and rebirth through images of God killing himself and Mother Nature birthing out Man. The movie plays out in black and white with eerie music in the background. There is no talking in the movie but there is a great deal of attention played to the sound - whether it be when a character is walking across dirt or a character is cutting open their insides. The backdrop looks as if it's a barren wasteland and visually the movie is hard to watch because of the intense imagery played out on the screen.
I had the chance to view this movie with E. Elias Merhige in attendance and he was gracious enough to do a Q&A with the audience as well as talk about the trials and tribulations he had with making and releasing "Begotten." For such a disturbing movie it was a juxtaposition to see the director as a really nice and mellow individual. Merhige is clearly a genius as he talked about "Begotten" and where he got his ideas from; most of it came from him being a very sick child fighting an autoimmune disease. He's a true believer when it comes to immersing yourself within the arts and learning more about your surroundings and past history. During his Q&A he even brought along manuscripts from the 17th Century that he hopes to translate one day as well as a working book of the Order of the Golden Dawn. This may all seem incredibly random, and to a point it is, but it also gives us a closer look into the man that directed "Begotten." I think one of the most important things that I took away from the Q&A is that Merhige loves his movie. Though it may not have had huge success at the box office, to him he made the movie he wanted to make without anyone telling him to do differently. For that, I admire him.
In conclusion, "Begotten" is a rare film. Whether one loves it or hates it, it stays with you. I personally haven't decided as to what I think of the film as I think I still need to process it but it did have some type of an affect on me. I urge people to see this film because there is more to it than the horrifying imagery - it truly shows us the circle that is life and death, and it does so unapologetically. "Begotten" will always be a cult film, one that doesn't need commercial advertising; which in turn gives it it's unique and mysterious quality. I actually think it's better as an underground film, especially in this day in age where most media is at our fingertips. Do I plan on watching "Begotten" again? Probably not, but it won't be a film that I forget anytime soon.