May 3, 2011

A Journey Into Bliss


After being introduced to the films of Wenzel Storch by Nekromantik producer Manfred Jelinski, I immediately hunted down the three feature-length works that were lovingly created by the German avant-garde auteur. If you ever wondered what a German mind would be like on LSD, the rainbow-colored surrealist fantasy films of Mr. Storch will no doubt provide you with such a seemingly bizarre, yet heavenly combination. Wenzel Storch – an acid-freak Aryan auteur – is a man of eclectic interests with an impeccable knack for homogenizing his obsessions and melding them into totally original cinematic works.  Storch's favorite song is “Paranoid” by revolutionary doom metal group Black Sabbath, but he also holds a special love for the delinquent freestyle rapping antics of world famous American wigger Eminem, and the sinister lounge music of Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey.  When it comes to inspirational works of cinema, Herr Storch has equally eclectic favorites; citing both Münchhausen (1943) – a fantasy-comedy epic directed by Josef von Baky that was commissioned by Nazi minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels for the 25th anniversary of UFA studios – and the ultra-trashy exploitation flick The Last House on the Left (1972) – an extremely loose remake of Ingmar Bergman's pagan revenge film The Virgin Spring (1960) that was directed by a very young Wes Craven –  as two of his top-ten favorite films. In Wenzel Storch’s third feature A Journey Into Bliss (2004) – the final chapter in the director’s “Jürgen Höhne (the star actor of all three films) trilogy” – one, indeed, takes a glorious odyssey through the mystical world featured in the eccentric German filmmaker’s expertly crafted flick, a work that was unsurprisingly written under the influence of LSD. Although A Journey Into Bliss is a dreamy rainbow of austerely assembled colors, the film – featuring excessively crude imagery and perverted dialogue – lacks the sort of auteur pretensions that is often associated with such an original and inventively elaborate work. A Journey Into Bliss manages to mix elements of popular American stop-motion animated Christmas specials from the 1960s (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman) with aesthetic/thematic qualities featured in popular phantasmagorical fantasy films (from Münchhausen to Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory).  To top it off, A Journey Into Bliss features a musically-inclined tribe of black-face primitives that give famous degenerate Jazz singer Al Jolson a run for his money. Despite its ridiculous and raunchy material, A Journey Into Bliss is the kind of film a young child would love to get lost in, as it is a totally imaginative work that includes witty talking animals, time-traveling, excessive gross-out humor, grownups acting like buffoons, and a family of clever children (who are quite good film critics). Naturally, A Journey Into Bliss – a totally chimerical work of (oftentimes lowbrow) celluloid absurdity – is not a film that everyone will admire, yet it unrelentingly assaults (for better or for worse) every person who dares to watch it. 

According to his equally bizarre website, German auteur Wenzel Storch was supposed to be a country star, but was born on the wrong continent, hence his unconventional career as Germany’s most bizarre filmmaker. In Storch’s A Journey Into Bliss, a husky captain named Gustav lands his snailship - which also carries his eccentric wife Eva, their many small progeny, primitive musicians (“believed to be extinct by scientists”) from the Congo, his first mate (a grumpy, but kind hearted talking grizzly bear), various animal lackeys, and two ministers of propaganda suffering from bladder problems - on a mysterious island in the hope that it will make for a relaxing and luxurious retirement spot. Unfortunately for Gustav and friends/family, the exotic island they have landed on is ruled by evil King Knuffi, an inbred and royally degenerated megalomaniac who rules from beneath the flag of a carpet-beater. Being a member of a decadent royal family, King Knuffi has a loyal mini-army of erotomaniac grandmas. Indeed, sexual perversion is somewhat prevalent on the mysterious island featured in A Journey Into Bliss, thus it is no surprise that German necrophile auteur Jörg Buttgereit (Nekromantik, Der Todesking, Schramm) and members of his film crew (composed of Michael Romahn and Marcel Caspers) created the psychedelic special effects for Storch’s fantasy freak-out flick. In fact, Buttgereit has a small, yet notable cameo in A Journey Into Bliss as an effeminate curly-haired nobleman whose head explodes after he eats quail. Of course, all gross-out and perverted scenes featured in the film are of an absurdist and ultimately comical nature. Wenzel Storch is like a German Guy Maddin, as both directors tend to concoct postmodern worlds of nonsensical immorality where the most tragic of scenarios are portrayed in a unconventionally humorous light. After all, I can’t think of another film where two long-haired ministers of propaganda piss on a group of child to get their attention. Nor can I think of any other German that so wickedly satires the history of the Third Reich. In A Journey Into Bliss, the two hippie-like (both in character and dress) ministers of propaganda show their dubious support of the Nazi party (while wearing stylistically out-of-place swastika-armbands) by stating to the evil king, “real far out party boss. A day and night party” and “They’re really cooking with gas......They’re into some serious shit.” Indeed, Wenzel Storch is a German auteur who has the splendid gall to poke fun at the holocaust and for that alone, he should be unanimously commemorated in the underground sinema world. Of course, Storch’s wicked Teutonic humor is only a small part of the director’s unique vision as a filmmaker. 

Jörg Buttgereit before his head explodes

"Acid House" Aryan Auteur Wenzel Storch

Like all great fairy tales, the evil king featured in A Journey Into Bliss is defeated by the protagonist of the film, yet this is not the true climax of the film. Instead, a totally deranged scene in A Journey Into Bliss where a certain snail becomes sexually aroused by a church (and does the unthinkable) seems to be the true climax of the film. Indeed, Wenzel Storch – an ex-altar boy for his local Catholic Church – playfully attacks religion in a most clever, yet wild manner, henceforth not seeming like a humorless atheist who is out to destroy the faith of all true believers. From beginning to end, A Journey Into Bliss is a truly jovial cinematic affair that is worthy of its title. After all, Wenzel Storch seems to be (judging from his photographs and films) quite a jubilant individual with a slightly dark side (no doubt, the unfortunate result of growing up in post-WW2 Germany). By comparison, A Journey Into Bliss makes the 1984 surrealist family film The Hotel New Hampshire (based on a novel by John Irving) – which shares a lot of similarities (both feature a peculiar, yet playful family and an extraordinary bear) with Storch’s film - seem like a work of sterile Victorian manners. Hell, A Journey Into Bliss even makes Italian maestro Federico Fellini’s fantastic work of decadent sea-fare, And the Ship Sails On (1983), seem relatively sane and mild-mannered. If you have a desire to feel like an excited kid again (minus ignorance towards sex and drugs), A Journey Into Bliss is mandatory viewing. Of course, that is not the only reason why the film is worthy viewing, as A Journey Into Bliss is an exotic delicacy for the eyes. Cinephiles who appreciate works that feature an intricate Mise-en-scène – typical of films directed by directors like Kenneth Anger, Sergei Paradjanov, and Federico Fellini  – will indubitably find comfort in the cinema of Wenzel Storch. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that debauched auteur Wenzel Storch is very possibly the most flamboyant German filmmaker (both in character and aesthetic) that ever lived.

-Ty E

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