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Film / W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism

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It gets weirder...

W.R. - Misterije organizma (English: W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism) is a 1971 Serbian film directed by Dušan Makavejev.

It's a very unusual mixture of documentary, comedy, and art house film. Roughly the first third of the film consists of a pseudo-documentary about the life and work of psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich; who was once an associate of Sigmund Freud. Wilhelm Reich had this theory that the essence of life consisted of sexual energy called "Orgone". He believed that diseases such as cancer were caused by an inhibited orgonal flow, and he constructed chambers called "orgone accumulators" that would infuse people with orgone energy to cure them and improve their sexual potency. Originally from eastern Europe; Reich was a devoted communist who believed that the only way the USSR could achieve utopia was by advocating free sexuality, thus resulting in uninhibited orgonal flow. Uh-huh. Reich was booted out of the USSR and he wound up in Nazi Germany, where he was booted out again to America. Here, he got persecuted as a crackpot and his books were burned. One thing that may have contributed to this could possibly be that one of his therapies involved having patients engage in orgies.

...Anyways, the remaining two thirds of the film revolve around a (fictional) Yugoslavian woman who is an advocate of Reich's theories as she romances a Russian ice skater named Vladimir Illych. He beheads her with his skate when he has an orgasm.

...These two narratives are intercut with footage of, among other things: performance artist Tuli Kupferberg of band The Fugs parading around New York dressed as a soldier whilst masturbating a toy rifle, Artist Betty Dodson discussing her experiences in drawing acts of masturbation as well as her discussions within consciousness raising groups about female sexual response, and Jim Buckley getting a plaster cast made of his erect penis.

Of the numerous films of the late '60s and early '70s that positively gloried in the sexual revolution and the release of social shackles on free expression in general, W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism is one of the most ambitious, most confused, and downright weirdest. It was also one of the most controversial, its numerous nude sex scenes and frank dialog about masturbation and sexual stimulation ensuring both substantial audiences and outcries from Moral Guardians. In some ways, it's a brilliant piece of art, in others, it's an incoherent mess. In any case W.R. may be the only avant-garde slapstick communist documentary sex romp ever made, and that alone makes it a must-see.

Is the first in a loose unofficial trilogy followed by Sweet Movie and Montenegro.

Compare A Serbian Film, another film made in Serbia that stirred up controversy in its home country (though far more disturbing and less quirky than W.R.).

This film provides examples of:

  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Partly averted. A large portion of it is about Wilhelm Reich. But then, he was an assisstant of Freud.
  • Artistic License – History: In Real Life, Wilhelm Reich never lived in the Soviet Union, and while his patients and followers probably did engage in orgies from time to time it wasn't part of any of Reich's therapies.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Some of the film's dialogue is in Serbian.
  • Celebrity Cameo: Tuli Kupferberg (The Fugs) has a memorable moment where he walks around dressed up as as soldier, sexually stroking his gun as the soundtrack plays "Kill For Peace" from The Fugs Second Album.
  • Commie Nazis: Averted. The film makes it clear that fascism and communism are distinct ideologies.
  • Dartboard of Hate: There's a dartboard with Sigmund Freud's picture on the wall of Milena's apartment. Why? Presumably because Freud's daughter Anna ruined Wilhelm Reich's career in Europe in the 1930s.
  • Dirty Communists: Possibly. Whether communism is portray as a good or a bad thing in this film is a matter of personal interpretation.
  • Euroshlock: An unusual rather upbeat and light-hearted example.
  • Glorious Mother Russia
  • The Ken Burns Effect: A picture of Wilhelm Reich in handcuffs is accompanied by a slow zoom in until the whole screen is filled by his cuffed wrists.
  • Le Film Artistique:
    • Why is a man wandering around the streets of New York dressed in buckskin (it looks like a rejected Village People costume) carrying a toy gun?
    • Milena, the red-headed Yugoslav woman who is more or less the focus of the latter portion of the film, gets into an argument with a Moral Guardians lady in the apartment building who disapproves of Milena's roommates' noisy sex. This somehow transitions into Milena giving a passionate Balcony Speech about the necessity of free love for human happiness, with everyone else who lives in the building listening raptly from the catwalks. Then of course there's a transition to a Stock Footage clip of an old Soviet Stalin-era propaganda film.
  • Male Frontal Nudity:
    • There's an erect penis, as shown in a clip from a 1931 American porn film.
    • There's an entirely random scene in what appears to be the office of some left-wing American newspaper. A guy who seems to be an editor is talking to two other men. For no obvious reason the editor is totally nude. (Just to make this more bizarre a nude young lady who seems to be a secretary walks in, drops off a couple of papers, and sits in a reporter's lap.)
    • Towards the end of the film a woman makes a plaster cast of a man's erection. Yep.
  • Mind Screw: "Embracing lovers radiate a bluish light, orgone illumination." What?
  • Phallic Weapon: The weird guy wandering around in buckskin and a helmet with a toy gun, is seen towards the end looking at the camera as he slowly slides his hand up and down the barrel of the gun. And just so the viewer doesn't miss the point, this scene comes right after the sequence where we see a woman stimulate a man's penis to erection, so she can make a plaster cast of it.
  • Red Scare: Acording to this film, Reich was persecuted for this reason. (The reality was somewhat different; at the time Reich was indicted by the FDA, he was an ardent anti-communist.)
  • Shout-Out: Some of the film's scenes reenacts Sergei Eisenstein's films.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Have sex, or else you will become a psychopathic murderer.
  • Stock Footage:
    • A clip from a hardcore porn film, supposedly from America in 1931, plays as the narrator claims that the release of "orgasmic energy" is necessary for a successful worker's society.
    • The film includes clips from a 1946 Soviet propaganda film called The Vow in which an actor playing Stalin gives a speech about building on Lenin's revolution. Why? Who knows?
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?: The very first line has the narrator asking "Who will protect us from our protectors? Who shall judge our police?"