Oct 29, 2013
Undoubtedly, contemporary Scandinavia is littered with tons of degenerate and ethno-masochistic cinematic works depicting a pathologically perturbed people who are addicted to Weltschmerz, existential crisis, nihilism, spiritual emptiness, xenophilia, meaningless sex, and pill-popping, but probably no other film from the deracinated Nordic lands depicts these many miserable untermensch things in a more flagrant and personal manner than the autobiographical documentary Gunnar Goes Comfortable (2003) aka Gunnar Goes Comfortable – A Personal Inquiry directed by Norwegian documentarian Gunnar Hall Jensen (Cathedral, Gunnar Goes God). A darkly comedic doc that features a lifetime’s worth of home movies edited down to just over 70 minutes, Gunnar Goes Comfortable documents the confused life of angst-ridden auteur Gunnar Jensen; an alcohol, depression and diabetes-addled Norwegian narcissist, borderline psychopath, and 37-year-old man-child of the sometimes majorly moronic sort who makes a Hesse-inspired pilgrimage to India in the decidedly desperate hope that he can find peace with his majorly discombobulated mind, body, and soul. Featuring ambient footage of Gunnar burning his cock with a space heater, hanging out in a morgue with the corpse of the father he never knew, crying constantly like a little girl for seemingly no reason, deriving a grand delight in dumping his girlfriend (who he has been cheating on), and proudly showing off the naked body of his new pregnant wife, among various other things that no sane person would film themselves doing, Gunnar Goes Comfortable is as creepily candid as a colonoscopy as a sort of artfully edited celluloid defecation of the morbidly depressed director’s lifelong fear and failure as the bastard son of an unloving ship captain whose emotionally-shattered mother used him as an emotional punching bag. A sort of wayward and wacky window into the perturbed psyche of a modern day middle-class Norwegian man living in a soulless socialist democracy, Gunnar Goes Comfortable depicts an exceedingly emasculated and eccentric fellow who would love nothing more than to kill his masochistic mind and personality, even if these are pretty much the only thing he cares about and bothers to discuss. Describing his first orgasm as having felt like he was “bleeding to death” and studying the misanthropic dipsomaniac literature of alcoholic Aryan-American author Charles Bukowski as a sad and senseless substitute for a living and breathing father figure, Gunnar still managed to have an inkling of the Faustian man in his soul as his restlessness led him to a spiritual pilgrimage that, although causing him to hit rock bottom with a beer can in one hand and and insulin needle in the other, ultimately leading him to realize that the grass is always greener on the other side and to just accept his shitty personality and mixed up mind.
As Gunnar states at the beginning of Gunnar Goes Comfortable, “It all started with a feeling of being scared. Then my father left me and my mother forever. Mom never got over it. She got sick.” Indeed, apparently Gunnar’s mom got so sick that she suffered “massive menstruations” and he was no different, ultimately developing a debilitating form of diabetes at a young age that would contribute to him not only being a physical cripple, but an emotional one as well. When discovering how he ran through a glass window as a wee lad, Gunnar—a major (sado)masochist who wallows in pain and suffering—has no problem admitting that he, “actually felt good being injured” and continued to seek solace in similar self-destructive behavior. When Gunnar grew up to be an adult man-child he realized that he would need to do dangerous activities to balance out his fear-stricken mind, ultimately opting for jumping off bridges, speeding on long, windy mountain roads and whatnot. Determined to be a ‘messianic auteur,’ Gunnar became a filmmaker, making nonsensical films, including a black-and-black noir-ish arthouse flick featuring men defecating on toilets in a pseudo-Lynchian manner, that he himself would more or less describe as being as messed up as his mind, but eventually he sold-out and began making goofy commercials to financially support himself. Including footage of his one-time hero Charles Bukowski stating, “The further I am from the human race the better I feel,” Gunnar made the wise decision to make a pilgrimage to India—the second most populated country in the world—to do a bit of soulseeking. On top of confiding in the crackpot texts of superlatively pseudo-scientific crazed kosher psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich to learn better masturbation techniques (which he films himself practicing) and getting over his self-described ambivalence regarding women and pleasure, Gunnar studied under a fellow rootless Norwegian named ‘Vasant Swaha’; a racial Nordic turned pseudo-Indian Hindi mystic. Although he freely admits he has no idea what Swaha is talking about when he speaks of metaphysical mumbo jumbo, Gunnar learns from his master that his personality creates so much pain and misery because, “it’s false” and that “your whole life is built around the personality…that means everything is false.” Of course, neither Gunnar nor Swaha seem to realize the adopting an alien religion and form of dress is also ‘false.’
In terms of other heroes, Gunnar lists Japanese far-right novelist Yukio Mishima at the top, describing him as the “ultimate encounter with self-control,” as a gay man who created a virtual martial empire of art and who took his life into his owns hand, quite literally, annihilating himself at the height of his physical and artistic prowess. Due to the fact that he also suffered a less than ideal childhood involving nagging and repressive women and had next to nil father figures (Mishima spent his early childhood as a virtual slave of his pseudo-aristocratic grandmother), Gunnar sees Mishima as a father figure, even going so far as glorifying the novelist’s ritual suicide by seppuku after a failed coup d'état as the “ultimate piece of masculine art.” If anything is for sure while watching Gunnar Goes Comfortable, it is that hero Gunnar is far too self-absorbed, ill-restrained, cowardly, and totally lacking in the capacity to commit to following through with something as serious and permanent as suicide, let alone leading a coup d'état with his own privately trained army, thus he must keep grudgingly treading on with his loser life. Gunnar also theorizes that he would have been a staunch Hitlerite had he been a Teutonic teen during the Third Reich era because, like many of those boys of that time whose fathers had been killed during World War I, he was looking for a father figure and someone like Uncle Adolf would have filled that void. Needless to say, Gunnar did not obtain many new insights in India and eventually went home to Norway to take respectable employment as someone who dubs bad movies from English to Norwegian, but luckily the neglectful father he never knew drops dead, thus creating a new sense of closure in his life. In what is easily the most morbid and disturbing scene of Gunnar Goes Comfortable, the hysterical hero goes to the morgue and films himself seemingly fake crying at the bedside of his estranged father’s corpse in what is probably the longest and most intimate moment they ever spent together. Proudly admitting he never thought about his father ever again after his degenerate date with his dead daddy’s corpse, Gunnar finally realizes his deep love for his mommy, stating although he has tried to avoid her for 25 years, he now misses her, realizing her love for him was stronger than her 'fucked up personality.' In the end, things seem to work themselves out for Gunnar as he marries a single mother with a handicapped child and even has a son of his own with her, thus thankfully continuing the cycle of post-Viking Nordic misery.
While essentially saying everything he has to say about his depressing life with the documentary, Gunnar followed up Gunnar Goes Comfortable with a quasi-sequel of sorts entitled Gunnar Goes God (2010), which takes a less intimate and Hebraic humor inspired approach to things. Indeed, while Gunnar is a now a happily married father with two cars, a nice scenic home with a luxurious landscape, and a four compartment refrigerator, in Gunnar Goes God the filmmaker has a spiritual cramp of sorts and decides to take his film crew to Egypt to the oldest Christian monastery where, not unsurprisingly, he does not really learn anything about the void in his soul. Undoubtedly, compared to his first documentary, Gunnar Goes God seems like a halfhearted attempt of conspicuously contrived self-parody of the superficial softcore sort, as a man who has finally ‘gone comfortable’ enough to take on a bourgeois novelty of investigating god and life itself. Indeed, in its own way, Gunnar Goes Comfortable is a minor masterpiece of merrily macabre personal filmmaking as a keenly kaleidoscopic collage of one borderline psychopath’s perturbing personality and how he comes to terms to accepting said positively perturbed personality. Considering Gunnar’s less than artistic personal favorite films, which are featured throughout the documentary and include The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), Mad Max (1979), First Blood (1982), and RoboCop (1987), and seeming lack of artistic pretensions, Gunnar Goes Comfortable is a shockingly artfully assembled and even strangely ethereal work that takes the viewer on a jaded journey that they will never forget, whether they want to or not. Featuring an eclectic soundtrack, including songs from Sigur Ros, D.A.F. (Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft), Creedence Clearwater Revival, Grandaddy, and Will Oldham, among various others, Gunnar Goes Comfortable is, aside from the music and occasional film clip, an unadulterated ‘auteur piece’ in the truest sense as an embarrassingly incriminating personal portrait of a messed up mensch who is simultaneously ridiculously narcissistic yet pathologically self-denigrating. A sort of Norwegian equivalent to Jonathan Caouette’s Tarnation (2003), except way less gay, hysterical, and spastically directed, Gunnar Goes Comfortable is a highly personalized depiction of the spiritual and psychological degeneration of the Viking man who, instead of a conqueror lands, has adopted xenophilia and is making pilgrimages to the third world to ‘find himself,’ which he naturally did not. Easily the most unintentionally humorous documentary I have ever seen as a work that even makes Timothy Treadwell of Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man (2005) seem sane by comparison, Gunnar Goes Comfortable is a film that proves that for at least once in director Gunnar Hall Jensen's life, his nauseating narcissism and general mental illness have been given a creative and even productive outlet, even if he screwed up a couple lives in the process.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 9:34 PM
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