Apr 29, 2012

Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men

Although I have never been particularly fond of serial killers nor the American populous' peculiar obsession with them, I spent a good portion of my time last weekend watching a number of films about them. Out of all of these mostly wretched works, only two left any sort of notable impression on me: The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer (1993) and Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men (1989). While The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer impressed me due to its unabashedly exploitative and downright uproarious portrayal of deranged Dahmer, Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men had the total opposite effect on me. Based on a stageplay about Dennis “British Jeffrey Dahmer” Nilsen that was conceived by Lloyd Newson and performed by the DV8 Physical Theatre located in London, England, Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men directed by David Hinton (Strange Fish) is a militantly expressionistic cinematic performance art piece that can barely described as a serial killer flick, at least in any conventional sense. DV8 Physical Theatre, which has been described as 'the theatre of blood and bruises', is somewhat notorious for its ‘unconventional’ approach to dance, using everything from virtual violence to less-than-mobile cripples in their pleasantly peculiar frolic pieces. Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men – a film that begins with four men feeding off of a catchy synthpop track and each other at an aggressive gay club and ends with three of these men laying dead in artful poses – is quite possibly their most infamous yet critically revered work. Featuring not a single line of dialogue nor acknowledging a single character’s name, the film expresses a variety of entangled emotions that surely cannot be properly articulated through the use of mere stagnant words. Shot with black-and-white film on minimalistic yet aesthetically domineering sets engulfed amongst unsettling shadows, Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men is a work that permeates gritty doom and gloom in a strikingly stylized and queerly indefatigable fashion. Had Jean Cocteau taken steroids instead of opium and collaborated with Jean Genet, Jörg Buttgereit and Derek Jarman on a film directed within the seemingly limited confines of a lone soundstage, it would most likely resemble Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men; a work of truly carnal cinematic poetry in motion.

If the real Dennis Nilsen were to watch Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men, I am sure he would be more than flattered by the highly fictionalized portrayal of his homo-cidal antics. On top of featuring four men that one would never mistake for being banal government bureaucrats, none of the actors give off the vibe of a feeble and pathetic introvert that footage and photographs of Dennis Nilsen radiate in a most shuddersome manner. Preying exclusively on the weak, including junkies, prostitutes, vagrants and the like, Nilsen was not exactly a stud of a serial killer and neither were his queer quarry. Sporting bold combat boots and shaved heads (or at least two of them are), the muscular martial men of Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men look as if they could be training for the remaining days of an apocalyptic world war. Of course, these agile brothers-in-arms are not getting ready to attack an enemy army, but each other. Featuring ambiguous dichotomies that blur the line between sex and violence, and love and hate, Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men is a work that examines psychosis and the transcendence of the individual from the organic to inorganic. Due to the exceptionally choreographed and brutishly calculated ‘dance’ sequences featured in the film, every movement in Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men seems quite naturalistic, despite the blatantly theatrical persuasion of the film. It is not until three of the four men are dead that the viewer realizes the line between the normal and abnormal has been irrevocably crossed.  As someone who has always found most forms of dance to be dreadfully insipid and uninspiring, Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men proved to be an exorbitantly dynamic work that can be relished even by those individuals who are not very keen on grown men dancing around like coke-fueled fairies. 

 Using the curious case of cunning coldhearted killer Dennis Nilsen as a mere motif for examining ideas and interpreting emotions about the frailty of human condition in a refreshingly unpedantic manner, Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men is a film that will be more of interest to fans of Leni Riefenstahl and Ingmar Bergman’s work than the typical serial killer fetishist. For those interested in seeing a strictly realistic portrayal of Dennis Nilsen and his crimes, the gritty British horror-docudrama Cold Light of Day (1989) directed by Fhiona-Louise (who committed suicide shortly after finishing the film at the premature age of 21) makes for an atmospheric and endearing yet objective depiction of the mass murderer's odious 'sexual' conquests. In many ways, Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men is the ultimate anti-serial killer flick. Instead of portraying the killer in a typically romantic manner as a charming social Darwinist with a refined taste for blood (The Silence of the Lambs, American Psycho), or as a monstrous killing machine with nil emotions (Halloween, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men depicts the deadly manhunter in a state of unmitigated 'nakedness', characterizing him during his most vulnerable and, ultimately, his most human moments, thus bring humanity to the inhuman; undoubtedly, an audacious and perverse premise that is bound to offend an ample number of viewers. Indeed, the film is as visceral as serial killers flicks come, yet Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men does the seemingly impossible by not featuring a single drop of blood. Needless to say, I never expected for an avant-garde dance film to be one of very few works that, in my opinion, successfully playacts the metaphysics of murder, at least of the thoroughly repressed homosexual sort. Not only would I argue that Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men is quite possibly the most importunate 'dance' film of its time, but I would also wager that it is one of the most celestially idiosyncratic offerings of mostly malodorous and depreciated celluloid ghetto that is the serial killer film.

-Ty E

1 comment:

Adolf Hitler said...

Ein pansy queer bastard ! ? ! ?, ein fucking scum of ein earth ! ! !.