A Visual and Sonic Experiment
, 13 Aug 2013
Herostratus was an arsonist who in 356 BC sought fame by burning down a temple in Ancient Greece. He was executed, but as a further punishment it was decreed that anyone who mentioned his act would themselves be killed; despite this the event was recorded in The Hellenics and so his name lives on and is linked with anyone who commits a crime in order to achieve notoriety. Max, played by Michael Gothard is bored with life and wishes to die, so he visits an advertising agency who agree to broadcast his suicide on live TV; problems occur when he starts to lose his nerve and a battle ensues between rebellious youth and the establishment. Max desires posthumous fame, but does he have the will to carry out the act? When I first hired the movie I thought it was simply a satire on advertising but it is so much more than that. It is filled with visual and sonic experimentation, which at times is much more interesting than the plot itself; so much so that we had to keep stopping the DVD to discuss what we had just seen and heard. Scenes of war and violence are juxtaposed alongside footage that includes for example Allen Ginsbergs recital of Howl at the Royal Albert Hall. Other refreshing techniques are when characters talk over each other, in a way that contrasts with the stilted dialogue found in most standard films. As well as an inventive use of sound and editing the film is also very visually inspiring, particularly the walls of Maxs flat which are covered with images straight out of a dada, situationist or punk collage. It isnt a perfect film, and at times I found Max and the other characters, with their typically British cut-glass accents more than a little irritating; likewise it did reach a high pitch of melodrama which made it almost too much to bear by the end. At some points in the film I also felt that the battle between Max and the Advertising Executive Farson (Peter Stephens) held no relevance for me as if the boy simply needed to be broken down before he could be assimilated back into his rightful place in the arms of the establishment, although maybe this definition is way off of the mark and the final images of Max belie this idea anyway. Whatever the intricacies of the plot and its true meaning it needs to be removed from the shelf marked Art School Oddity and firmly placed on the shelf labelled National Treasure as being still relevant and of interest today.
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