Friday, September 22, 2017

Psychopathia Sexualis (2006)

Directed by: Bret Wood
Run Time: 98 minutes

I found this movie after a co-worker was telling me about a screwed up movie they had seen but could not remember the name. After a few hours of searching I couldn't find the movie they had seen but this is nearly as screwed up. Psychopathia Sexualis was a book written by Richard von Krafft-Ebing and was a study of various sexual mental illnesses. Some examples are homosexuality, sexual fetishes, vampirism, sadism, masochism, bestiality, necrophilia, and deviation from gender stereotypes. Without an essay about the book and it's contributions to psychology, this book opened the way for the study sexuality and psychology but makes a lot of assumptions that have been disproved.

The film itself is a series of vignettes based on selected case studies found in the book. The vignettes are held together with narration from the book and providing a counter point to what is being shown in the vignette. The result of this is a tone that comes off as a giant middle finger to the author of the title book. An example of this is the vignette that deals with sanitariums and treatment. The narration talks about how great the facilities are, professionalism of the staff, and the benefit of the treatments available at the time of the book's first printing. The vignette shows deplorable facilities, corrupt and unethical staff, and the brutal reality of some psychological treatment at the time.

This is the major flaw of the film. It's so busy pointing out how wrong von Krafft-Ebing conclusions were that it sacrifices the flow of the narrative. Also other vignettes don't fit into the narrative that is already established. So a lot of the time I found myself being jarred out of the film because the narrative was trying to cram in as much weirdness as possible. At other times I thought this was well edited Scientologist anti-psychologist movie rather than a history exploitation film.

It's not all doom and failure with this film. The orchestral score is a prefect fit for the movie and the time period. The sets, locations, and costumes are so close to the eighteen hundreds that only hardcore history buffs would be able to point out what out of place. Finally, the director of photography did a great job of shooting the film.

I don't know who or how to recommend this movie. It's subject matter would be better suited to a documentary, it's on the extreme shallow end of the exploitation pool, and it's so limited in scope that only a small amount would care about the subject presented. It's not bad enough to mock, it's not good enough to be disappointed at, and it's book and subject that only appeal to a limited audience. I have to go with avoid unless you are passionate about this topic.

MVT: The film uses Iris wipes to great effect and gives the feel that the film sort of belongs in the silent era.

Make or Break: There are a lot of film breakers in this one. The tone of the film and how the subject matter is presented are the two things that kicked me out of the movie.

Score: 3.5 out of 10

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