Nov 9, 2012

Beyond Good and Evil




I hate to admit it, but now after watching Liliana Cavani’s Beyond Good and Evil (1977) aka Al di là del bene e del male aka Seeds of Evil, I think I can understand why certain bleeding heart film critics, most notably Roger Ebert – who described the following film as, "as nasty as it is lubricious, a despicable attempt to titillate us by exploiting memories of persecution and suffering" – were offended by the Italian auteuress’ sordid tale of SS sadomasochism, The Night Porter (1974) aka Il Portiere di notte. Centering around an imaginary sexual ménage à trios between German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, his Jewish-German author/philosopher friend Paul Rée and Russian-born psychoanalyst Lou Andreas-Salomé – the woman that both men (and later Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke) fell in love with – Beyond Good and Evil is an innately superficial softcore arthouse melodrama that, at best, uses the last days of sanity of the twentieth century’s most influential thinker as a pretext for depicting debauched sex, pseudo-poetic nudity, and the foreboding presence of antisemitism and National Socialism. Featuring sordid incest fantasies, unhinged drunkenness and dope fiending, gay gang rape orgies, whorehouse wantonness and STDs, and all-around cartoonish carnal buffoonery, Beyond Good and Evil is such a radically ridiculous take on the last days of Nietzsche that it portrays him as an extroverted libertine party animal with a proclivity for sexually servicing both gents and ladies. In short, if the real-life Friedrich Nietzsche philosophed with a hammer, Cavani must have directed with a cheap pink dildo. The second film in Liliana Cavani’s so-called "The German Trilogy" (the first being The Night Porter and the final The Berlin Affair; an interracial lesbian Nazi tale), Beyond Good and Evil – a curiously cosmopolitan work that was neither filmed in German language nor features a single kraut actor – is about as faithful to historical reality as popular Hollywood biopics like Ron Howards’ A Beautiful Mind (2001) and Miloš Forman’s cinematic adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s stage-play Amadeus (1984), minus the sleekly stylized direction and lavish production values. Indeed, the only thing remotely authentic about Beyond Good and Evil is the title, which is neither gratifying in an aesthetic, thematic, historical nor philosophical sense, nor is it perverted, erotic, nor demoralizing enough to be regarded as a fine piece of subversive cinematic art, hence its relative obscurity when compared to Cavani’s infinitely more interesting and indulging, albeit flawed, work The Night Porter



 Although it is true that Paul Rée was romantically involved with Lou Andreas-Salomé and Friedrich Nietzsche fell in delusional love with her as depicted in Beyond Good and Evil, which inevitably resulted in the break-up of the platonic threesome, there was never an ongoing orgy between the three thinkers (as long ago proven by Rudolph Binion's Frau Lou: Nietzsche's Wayward Disciple). In fact, there is no evidence that Nietzsche ever shared carnal knowledge with anyone and he may as well have died a deranged virgin.  As mentioned in his mostly fictional autobiography Ecce Homo (1888), "All women all like me. But that’s an old story: except of course the abortive ones, the emancipated ones who are simply not up to having children," and such is the case in Beyond Good and Evil; a work where the German philosopher's break into madness is partly the result of his undying love for proto-feminist Lou Andreas-Salomé – a woman that has no interest in being tied down by any man, even if she admires his deteriorating mind. Although Nietzsche did propose marriage to Lou Salomé in a most shameful and relationship severing manner, the German philosopher remained a lifelong bachelor whose one true love was morphine. Although his mental breakdown was originally diagnosed as the result of tertiary syphilis – which many believe he received via a prostitute at a brothel in Cologne or Leipzig – contemporary scholars believe his illness was the result of a number of hereditary taints (Nietzsche’s father died from a brain ailment in 1849). Additionally, contemporary Nietzschean scholar Joachim Köhler believes that the German philosopher was a homosexual who may have acquired syphilis in a male brothel in Genoa and was the goy-boy-toy of Paul Rée. Whatever the true manner of Nietzsche’s sexual orientation and descent into a insane, infantile state, Cavani’s Beyond Good and Evil has nil interest in the truth nor the book by Fritz that the film is named after. Equipped with a score by Mozart instead of Wagner, including cliche, one-dimensional tirades against his former mentor by Cavani's Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil is a bastardized Nietzsche For Dummies in celluloid form by a matriarchal Mediterranean matron with no love nor intrinsic understanding of the fatherland.


 The Friedrich Nietzsche (played by Swede Erland Josephson) seems like a mere bourgeois boob who uses his contrived pseudo-philosophical chant “chastity is a crime against nature” as means for justifying his untamed sybaritism and innate intemperance. Naturally, Nietzsche’s mom and sister (the infamous proto-Nazi Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche) are portrayed as prying prudes and anti-Semitic agitators who attempt to stop the “filthy Jewess” Lou Salomé (who in reality was of French Huguenot and Northern German Nordic racial stock) from pursuing a relationship with the then-virtually-unknown German philosopher. The self-declared, “son and grandson of Luther pastors…son of a pious woman, the nephew of two god-fearing aunts” who brought him up to be, “good, respectable” and thereupon “stifling” his “finest instincts,” the fictional Nietzsche of Beyond Good and Evil declares, “I deliberately chose a sweet demon to free me from my honorable education and I received a gift called syphilis” to the dismay of his puritanical female kin. In the end, Nietzsche is a babbling retard, Paul Rée is anally raped and rubbed out by a gang of barbarian Aryan sodomites, and Lou Salomé (played by the awfully dainty and unconvincing French actress Dominique Sanda) gets away rather unscathed, henceforth proving she – a loose woman with an affinity for leading men on, especially those with commanding intellects – is the only true blue Übermensch of Beyond Good and Evil; a quasi-pornographic yet ultimately unerotic and pseudo-feminist putterer piece of filmmaking that offers a fundamentally fabricated retelling of the last days of the Anti-Christ's sanity, and brings new meaning to the philosopher's writing, “In revenge and in love woman is more barbarous than man” (Beyond Good and Evil, Chapter 4, Maxims and Interludes, Friedrich Nietzsche); possibly the only quote that director Liliana Cavani understood. Unfortunately, Dominique Sanda as a white Russian femme fatale of great intellectual aptitude is about as convincing as Woody Allen would have made as a war-torn, wild Wehrmacht warrior in Oliver Hirschbiegel's Downfall (2004) aka Der Untergang.



 At best, Beyond Good and Evil is neither historically accurate nor even the slightest bit amorous, as a feeble and flat feminist cinematic abortion of the most senseless and self-congratulatory kind from a female filmmaker whose sense of female empowerment is derived from directing images of muscular man prancing around during scenes of hallucinatory ballet (which we recycle from The Night Porter) and by way of gay gang bangs, brutal forced buggery and involuntary bunghole bottling. In short, Beyond Good and Evil is no more historically accurate than the fiercely philo-semitic historical fiction work When Nietzsche Wept (2007) directed by Pinchas Perry and notably less erotic than the low-budget Brazilian cinematographic essay Days of Nietzsche in Turin (2001) aka Dias de Nietzsche em Turim. If you loathe Nietzsche or have no interest in getting to know the life and work of the tragic philosopher and are especially fond of lackluster, superficial European arthouse erotica in the tradition of Tinto Brass à la Salon Kitty (1976), then Beyond Good and Evil might be the film for you. The reality is that German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, like many intellectuals and scholars, lived a rather uninteresting and even pathetic life, so pretty much any cinematic adaptation of his life is doomed to be patently banal or an exploitative exaggeration (Cavani's film does both of these things), although I am sure Ingmar Bergman could have pulled if off – with his cold and brooding Scandinavian melodramas – as a man who also stared into the abyss. With all the miserable and misleading misreadings of Nietzsche's writings about his life and especially his works in written form, I should not have expected much from Liliana Cavani's Beyond Good and Evil, but at least French surrealist author Georges Bataille's morbid, if misguided and megamaniacal reading – via his Acéphale writings and book Sur Nietzsche (1945) aka On Nietzsche – of the antagonistic Anti-Christ is engrossing. When Nietzsche wrote in his autobiography, "I know my fate. One day there will be associated with my name the recollection of something frightful," little did he realize that one of these things would be a debauched and decidedly deluded depiction of his life named after one of his most famous books by an emancipated Italian woman no more impressed with his manhood than the unattainable object of his affection, Lou Andreas-Salomé.



-Ty E

14 comments:

jervaise brooke hamster said...

DIRTY PANSY QUEER BASTARDS, KILL `EM ALL.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

What the hell was that pathetic British tosser Robert Powell doing in this ?.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Liliana Cavani is obviously a fag-hag.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I liked the early pictures in the reveiw of the gorgeous naked bird showing her twat but then it cut to images of pansy queer filth which totally ruined it.

teddy crescendo said...

So Nietzsche was a deranged virgin when he snuffed it, Jervaise Brooke Hamster obviously shares the same fate.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Yo say that Nietzsche was a faggot is incredibly offensive and totally unacceptable. OK, maybe he didn`t shag any birds in his life but he weren`t no pansy queer bastard.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Dominique Sanda (as the bird was in 1966 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Virna Lisi (as the bird was in 1954 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

You said that irritating fag-hag Liliana Cavini had no intrinsic understanding of the fatherland, whats there to know, the Krauts are scum and the only country in the world that is worse is that laughable and pathetic abomination known as Britain.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Its amazing what a high number of these European art-house movies are spoilt by depictions of pansy queer filth, if only ALL the sexual activity depicted in them was that of gorgeous sexy 18 year-old lesbians buggering each other with 10-inch dildos they would be perfect movies, as soon as the faggots appear it ALWAYS completely ruins the movie.

eddie lydecker said...

You certainly know your obscure movies, there are no professional reveiws on IMBD for this film at all (making this reveiw rather unique perhaps).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Nietzsche just missed the dawn of the 20th century (by just over 4 months), i wonder what he would have said if he`d known that from 1900 to probably about 2030 was going to be THE most most hideously sexually repressed period in the entire history of the world governed totally and utterly by lies and hypocrisy. He would have been so appalled and horrified by that.

Unknown said...

Poor man, he was being raped. I am pretty sure, he was crying the whole time he was raped in the butt.

Macleata Kirkwood said...
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