Begotten (1991), a film by E. Elias Merhige

If you have not seen Begotten yet, you need to have this experience. Although the DVD Theatrical Trailer lists many quotes about the movie, I didn’t readily find them online, so I’m going to piece some things together:

The film opens with a robed, profusely bleeding "God" disemboweling himself, with the act ultimately ending in his death. A woman emerges from his remains, arouses the body, and impregnates herself with his ejaculate. Becoming pregnant, she wanders off into a vast and barren landscape. The pregnancy manifests in a fully grown man whom she leaves to his own devices.

The "Son of Earth" meets a group of faceless nomads who seize him with what is either a very long umbilical cord or a rope. The Son of Earth vomits organic pieces, and the nomads excitedly accept these as gifts. The nomads finally bring the man to a fire and burn him.

"Mother Earth" encounters the resurrected man and comforts him. She seizes the man with a similar umbilical cord. The nomads appear and proceed to rape her. Son of Earth is left to mourn over the lifeless body. A group of characters appears, carry her off and dismember her, later returning for Son of Earth. After he, too, is dismembered, the group buries the remains, planting the parts into the crust of the earth. The burial site becomes lush with flowers.

And this is from
BEGOTTEN is the creation myth brought to life, the story of no less than the violent death of God and the (re)birth of nature on a barren earth. Astounding and baffling critics and audiences alike, BEGOTTEN was named one of the Ten Best Pictures of 1991 by Time Magazine. Time's Richard Corliss wrote: "Nobody will get through BEGOTTEN without being marked... BEGOTTEN is a spectacular one-of-a-kind (you wouldn't want there to be two), filmed in speckled chiaroscuro so that each image is a seductive mystery, a Rorschach test for the adventurous eye." In production notes for the film, director Merhige commented, "Each shot in the film went through hours of preparation to achieve the look you will experience when viewing... the etheral "pulse" that hypnotically permeates the film. It took over ten hours to re-photograph less than one minute of selected takes."

This really is an amazing, though somewhat difficult, cinematic experience. These events take place in a primordial world without language, meaning, context, or morality. It is a representation of the universe’s first motions. It is a study in action for the sake of action; cause and effect for the sake of cause and effect; an unabashed look at creation and destruction, and the reality of existence.

Although you can draw religious conclusions from the film, or rather impose religious meaning on it, I don’t think that that was necessarily Merhige’s intention. I mean, you can see a God-Virgin Mary-Jesus Christ-like connection in the action sequence, but I think that that is only because people are accustomed to finding such analogies when it suites their outlook. Besides, xtians appropriated a lot of their iconography anyway. Other people see a universe-mother earth-mankind-like connection in the sequence instead. (Once you’ve seen the film, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.)

However, it is important that you view this film as being metaphorical. If you can’t do that, you won’t get it.

Not for the faint of heart, the impatient, or the unimaginative.

Tags: Cinema, Creationism, Film, Horror, Movie, Myth

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