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A Diorama Of The Broken
on 29 July 2009
Imagine if Sigmund Freud had gatecrashed a Gypsy wedding party where they were staging a performance of "Marat/Sade", and started up a discussion on hysteria, mental degradation and the Female Orgasm, and you kind of end up with what you'll see when you watch Jane Arden's "The Other Side Of The Underneath". The Holocaust women's theatre troupe (to which Arden belonged) were the first to stage her play "The Holocaust", from which the film is adapted from. Described by critic George Melly as "a most illuminating season in Hell", the movie depicts a nameless woman's descent into Schitzophrenia and the agonies and psychoanalysis that follows. However, from Arden's point of view the condition is caused by female sexual repression in society - the film depicts the protagonist undergoing rebirth as her personality fragments and finally implodes... as Arden was involved in the anti-psychiatry movement of the '60s, her scathing allegory is not altogether unsuprising.
The film excels in depictions of violent, sometimes symbolic brutality and the animal side of sexual release, which makes it not an altogether pleasant viewing experience. However, it is never short of powerful and compelling and never falls short of attempting to offend through its rejection of false icons (one wonders how the stiff-upper-lipped received it in 1972). The juxtaposition of bare breasts and crucifixion in the latter half was especially upsetting for some. It is never less than avant-garde and experimental, which obviously narrows it's potential audience somewhat. But, if you like your cinema to challenge, it's another Mother Lode from the BFI.
The extras include interviews with Sheila Allen and Natasha Morgan, extended sequences and as always a lavish booklet containing essays and aphorisms by Susan Croft, Sophie Mayer, Amy Simmons and Penny Slinger (If these names mean nothing to you, look them up). So, highly recommended if you are a cinematic masochist like myself; if not, rather stay away.