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I can easily see many people not "getting" this movie. The first half to a quarter is pretty slow-burning, and the second half is very, very violent. Also, large parts of the story are somewhat ambiguous and understated leaning on psychedelic imagery and symbolism over hard facts told to the audience.
All of that said, I did enjoy it, as someone with a weakness for modern fantasy, psychedelic colors, and barbarian heroes. And that's what it's a story of, in the end, I think. A rough man, with what's all-but stated to be a brutal past, settles down with a good woman who helps him to be better than himself, only to have her torn away at the hands of evil cultists, and take a horrible revenge. It works as well set in the ancient past as the 1980s.
As a film, it's held together not just by the whacked out visuals and color, but by the strong performances of its cast and an incredible soundtrack. Jeremiah Sand in particular is a triumph, somehow by turns scarily angry and hilariously pathetic. More films should have the balls to make the rapist not powerful and menacing, but a loser with a small penis who is the object of scorn and mockery; there'd probably be fewer problematic rape-fetishists in the world.
Ultimately, too, I like the way some visuals call back to one another without directly stating stuff, trusting to the audience's memory. Stuff like the main character's favorite shirt being his favorite because it's the shirt he met his wife in, or the multi-eyed wolf-man from his wife's artwork being representative of himself, or even the way he is never stated to be a recovering alcoholic, but refuses drinks early on and starts to indulge once his life falls completely apart.
Also, the movie has a wonderful sense of humor and timing, preventing the whole thing from being a joyless slog. I won't spoil any of the jokes, but you'll know them when you see them.
I do think some parts are a bit... self-indulgent. The opening hour could probably have had fifteen minutes cut out of it, tightening it up a bit. But, overall, it fits with the slower, more cerebral mood of the film as a whole, rather than the cathartic violence of the final half. Also, a lot of the darker scenes made it hard to tell what's going on, but some of that might've been heavy glare on my television I could never quite be rid of.
I also like the ending, though I have my own interpretation of it, and I can understand how those with a different one might find it dark and bleak. But it's poor form to discuss an ending in the opening.
Do I recommend it? I'm not sure. Know your limits and tastes, I suppose is my advice. I liked it, but I am not so blind as to think it's for everyone.
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