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The Dance of Reality (2014) Review

Updated on May 27, 2014

If you’ve read my review for Jodorowsky’s Dune, you found me enamored with a new hero. It’s no secret that I find this man to be completely brilliant and pure of heart. He consistently makes deeply personal, symbolic, and sacred films which offer messages for people at all stages of mental, spiritual, and emotional growth. He is an avid collaborator, yet will not allow his vision to be compromised by industry for the sake of marketability. He is a beacon of hope for the power of the art of film. When a filmmaker affects me to this degree, I tend to put more stock into everything they’re trying to say—especially when it’s unexpected.

Fortunately, when I stepped into Jodorowsky’s latest film, I did not get what I expected. Rather than the soul-melting, head-swimming sweep of El Topo, The Holy Mountain, and Dune, what he offers here is an autobiography of his childhood, focused heavily on the circumstances and personal growth of his Jewish immigrant parents in a small, poor town in Communist Chile. It seems by far his most personal work; so personal, in fact, that he himself steps through time and space onto the screen in order to offer his childhood self comfort and wisdom. Like his previous films, then, this story is told through a lens of symbolism, magical realism, theatricality, and humor. Unlike his previous films, however, there is an abundance of dialogue and music, and an all-around innocent spirit. The result is a captivating work of surrealist art, one that breaks cinematic boundaries and leaves you wondering why they were there in the first place.

Of course, this kind of film is not easy to get funded, especially by major distributors. So what does a filmmaker of such monolithic status as this one do? He crowdfunds it! In fact, as he himself puts it, his goal was “to lose money instead of winning money,” in order “to restore faith” in the sacred power of cinema, and this he did. With an online donations total of $40k, he was able to go to Michel Seydoux, the producer of his aborted Dune child, to eventually get the remaining part of the $4 million he needed. After the film was finished, realizing he had $40k left over, he returned the money to everyone who donated, and even lost $2k of his own money doing so through PayPal. In addition to writing, directing, and producing the entire project himself, he also made the film a family affair: he asked one of his sons to create the music, and the other—who played his son in El Topo—to play his father. He even revealed that he offered the role of his father to his son in order that his son could be his father’s father, to even the psychological ground between he and his son, to heal wounds; such is his resolve that “A picture is for the public, but it's also for the people who do the picture.”

Whether or not you follow Jodorowsky’s history as a filmmaker, an author, a composer, a comic book writer, a developer of the shamanistic healing system of Psychomagic, or any number of other roles in his life, you will very likely find something personally fascinating in this particular film. Whether that fascination is positive or negative, the important thing is that the artist has engaged you in an imaginative analysis, a dance of reality and art. And a thrilling dance it is.

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      MashDaniels 3 years ago

      Thanks for offering backstory about how Jodorowsky funded and crafted this film. I was totally swept up by the cinematic dance. I think the simple, yet absurd storytelling allows the viewer's imagination to play. The surrealist elements led me to consider the narrative on both broad, and very personal levels. Jodorowsky did so much with this film! The themes revolving around money, obedience, family lineage, and primal needs stood out to me most. I agree this was truly a unique and "thrilling dance" to witness!