Jan 31, 2015

Vergeef Me

Like its more degenerate neighbor Belgium, the Netherlands has managed to produce a relatively remarkable amount of subversive and wildly idiosyncratic avant-garde and even mainstream auteur filmmakers, including Frans Zwartjes, Bas Jan Ader, Adriaan Ditvoorst, Jos Stelling, Alex van Warmerdam, Theo van Gogh, Nico B, Aryan Kaganof aka Ian Kerkhof, and Edwin Brienen, among various others. Most recently, a tall blond four-eyed chap named Cyrus Frisch aka ‘Cyrus the Great’ (Blackwater Fever, Oogverblindend aka Dazzle)—a man that could not more archetypically and banally Dutch in physical appearance—has been hailed by the Dutch press as the most subversive and iconoclastic ‘enfant terrible’ filmmaker in the Netherlands. A sort of ‘dishonest documentarian’ who cannot help but mix digital video fact with fiction, Frisch has been credited for directing the first theatrical feature-length fictional film shot on a cell-phone with his work Why Didn't Anybody Tell Me It Would Become This Bad in Afghanistan (2007), even though Aryan Kaganof was actually the first person to accomplish this with his feature SMS Sugar Man (while Kaganof’s film was not released until 2008 due to problems with the distributor, the film was actually completely in December 2005).  Frisch has utilized a number of audaciously absurd and admittedly oftentimes entertaining, if not morally retarded, gimmicks during his filmmaking career, including filming the death (!) and cremation of his mentor, Dutch film scholar Hans Saaltink, for his work k zal je leven eren... (1996) aka I Shall Honor Your Life after his comrade unexpectedly suffered a heart attack on his doorstep.  Additionally, when the Netherlands’ most influence film critic wrote regarding him and his work: “If I think of Cyrus Frisch and his films, the first word that comes to mind is: pathetic. A rebel without a cause. It’s decadence without style, as if someone is stewing in his own dirt. Not inspired by cinephilia or any other examples…it’s inventing film all over again for his own sake as a form of self-pity,” the filmmaker fought back by directing a 70-minute piece with the rather fittingly title Zelfbeklag (1995) aka Self-Pity where the auteur tries in vain to drown himself in a fish tank while the negative review of his film is recited. Unquestionably, Frisch’s greatest accomplishment thus far is the overly ambitious multi-media abortion Vergeef me (2001) aka Forgive Me, which is a sort of preposterously postmodern and obnoxiously self-reflexive play-within-a-film disguised as a documentary starring the director himself as himself, albeit with the ostensibly contrived persona of an immoral auteur who has made a Faustian pact to deliver the most devilishly degenerate, depraved, demoralizing, and dejecting film ever made. Indeed, starring a real-life cast of junkies, dipsomaniacs, ugly cripples, dirty whores and murderous mentally defective lard asses, Frisch’s fucked flick is sort of meta-media digital video diarrhea that attempts to transcend Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, and Bumfights in terms of excessive exploitation of human misery and suffering as a work that, contrary to National Socialist propaganda films, proves that the Aryan mind can be just as defective as that of the most degenerate of the Juden. 

 Directed by a mensch who once stated, “It’s only when we behave immorally that we can raise a discussion on ethics,” Forgive Me is like the Dutch equivalent to kosher confederate avant-gardist Harmony Korine’s Gummo (1997), albeit taking a decidedly Dutch pseudo-deconstructionist approach as opposed to a neo-Vaudevillian montage-like approach. A longtime work-in-progress, Frisch originally showed early footage of the film at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) where, to the filmmaker’s chagrin, the piece was warmly received, so the auteur decided to up the ante in terms of aesthetic aberrance and invalid exploitation. “THE TWILIGHT ZONE of reality” as reflected in Amsterdam’s most physically and spiritually damned degenerates, Forgive Me is a dishonest piece of anti-cinematic (pseudo)honesty that attempts to be ‘ironic’ and ‘insightful’ in its meta-exploitation of invalids but it ultimately does very same that it seeks to criticize. At the beginning of the film, auteur Frisch self-righteously complains: “Can I say something? What I’m truly afraid of is that…What I think is really terrible is […] if you spend your entire life watching television and every evening at 8 o’clock you watch the news and see what there is to see every day, at 80 you end up in a home and you’re…There’s no way you can cope with that. You take in all this information and you end up totally traumatized in a home for the elderly.” When Frisch’s comrade interrupts him by stating, “But Cyrus? What do you have to add with your films? Aren’t your films just more pollution? Why do you make films?, the filmmaker retorts, “No. You don’t have to watch my movies! I’m only saying that it’s life-threatening. People need to understand! They need to see the influence of filming other people’s suffering. What it means…And the impact it has on audiences.” Messianic auteur Frisch believes, “some things should not be seen” and he decides he is going to fight back by absurdly showing things that certainly should “not be seen,” arguing that with Forgive Me, “…I’m going to make sure it doesn’t happen anymore. With this movie I’m going to go over the top! I’m going to cross the line! I’m going to cross the line of what’s acceptable!” 

 In a keenly kitschy postmodern molestation of the cinematic legacy of Teutonic master auteur F.W. Murnau, Forgive Me juxtaposes scenes from Faust (1926) with phony inter-titles of the Devil stating, “I’ll wrest the soul of Cyrus from God!” and thus the filmmaker subsequently makes his Faustian pact by introducing the motley crew of forsaken dipsomaniacs, junkies, and cripples. The first superstar introduced is hardcore middle-aged bisexual drunkard ‘Nico,’ who Frisch apparently met two years before in Amsterdam sitting in a broken down car in front of bar and liked him so much that he offered him a role in his film. Completely physically and mentally destroyed by his addiction to booze, Nico is hooked up to an IV and cannot even stand up, but that does not stop him from begging Frisch, “Please. Give me a drink…Or I can’t take the pain.” Somewhat unbelievably, during his early adult years, Nico went to college and during the very same time he was attempting to receive his graduate degree, he developed a fetish for hookers and hanging out in the Red Light District.  Nico also likes men and attempts to coerce Frisch into giving him a big sloppy kiss, but the director is simply not dedicated enough to his art to reduce himself to the level of making out with a whacked-out wino that probably has at least half a dozen STDS. Nico and his slightly less trashy but no less broken girlfriend Chiquita once appeared on a terribly trashy Dutch TV show called ‘Joy and Sorrow’ where they discussed their various erotic excursions in the Red Light District. Chiquita is a chain-smoker who once burned her house down after failing asleep with a cig in her hand and Frisch helps fuel her vice by giving her a bag full of cigarette packs upon introducing her in the film. Despite being an exhibitionist of sorts who likes appearing on trashy TV shows and flashes her tits to Frisch without him having to ask her to do so, Chiquita apparently suffers from agoraphobia. Chiquita used to date an abusive cripple named Peter Franciscus Johannes Smits, but she had to dump him after he ripped her earlobe off. Peter is proud of having the “one in ten million” disease of Ehlers–Danlos syndrome (EDS), as he says it makes him feel “special,” as he surely has nothing else to feel special about.  Peter has a nearly 11-year-old daughter that he hasn’t seen in 1 ½ years and Frisch attempts to coerce her into calling her, but he gets his ex Chiquita to do it instead, though she fails to get in contact with the little girl. 

 Arguably, the most degenerate of the lot aside from Nico is a heroin-addicted Arab cripple named Achmed, who does not seem to like his white compatriots too much and complains that Dutch drug laws are not liberal enough, self-righteously remarking from his electric scooter: “The Netherlands is a smart country, know what I mean? You can’t use drugs…but alcohol is available on every corner. That’s what I don’t understand about this society…Drugs aren’t allowed, alcohol is…Why? Cars are run over with cars. You drink like a fish, you get behind the wheel and you’re dead. And not just you. You take another with you. With drugs you only kill yourself. Maybe you lose a friend or two, but it’s your own fault.” Also unlike his friends, Achmed actually seems to care about Frisch’s film, complaining when Nico goes on a belligerent drunken rant, “I want it to be a beautiful film, and not this bickering. When you go somewhere, you don’t show up drunk.” Ultimately, all the ‘characters’ perform Frisch’s play Jezus/Liefhebber aka Jesus/Lover for a respectable bourgeois audience that would not touch the performers with a ten foot pole if their life depended on it yet have somehow been coerced in watching the novelty of seeing them in a stage-play. Needless to say, the play is a sad and pathetic joke where audiences members laugh while Chiquita nods out while mucus leaks out of her mouth and nose, a completely unclad Nico masturbates on stage and waves his member at the audience while displaying his skeletal shoah-survivor-esque body, Peter does virtually nothing while sporting a beanie and a pair of shades, and Achmed takes long and effortless drags from a cigarette in between smoking heroin backstage. Of course, the proudly demoralized bourgeois audience gives the proud performers a standing ovation because they probably feel ‘enlightened’ that they had the opportunity to watch such an ‘edgy’ play. 

 A couple years after the performance of Jesus/Lover, director Frisch decided to interview the film’s one and only true diva, Chiquita, about the aftermath of the performance and how it has affected her life. Probably to drive home the fact that the gutter diva is not all that different from certain international Dutch superstars in terms of the wanton and wayward fashion she chooses to live her life, Sylvia ‘Emmanuelle’ Kristel, herself a chain-smoker who began smoking unfiltered cigarettes at the age of 11 and died in late-2012 at the fairly young age of 60 from esophageal and lung cancer, briefly appears on stage as Chiquita’s melancholy celebrity doppelganger. As Frisch explains, while the play was a hit that described by the media as “a new kind of theatre: reality theatre” and “a whole new form of engaged theatre,” not one damn journalist, newscaster, or TV personality dared to check on the welfare of the performers, who had all sunken to an all-time low in terms of degeneracy as a result of their new celebrity. Chiquita describes how the experience made her feel that she had been “reduced to an actress” in her own life.  Notably, Frisch arrogantly complains to Chiquita, “Since then that story has become reality and I can’t stop it. I asked you to be yourselves…But you played roles. Now no one knows what’s real and what isn’t anymore. And that is the Twilight Zone of reality.” 

 Indubitably, Chiquita’s ex-beau Peter was most deeply affected by his newfound fame and when his mother berated him due to his dubious mainstream media reputation as a drug-addled mentally defective loser, he decided to get really drunk one night and ride his electric scooter off a loading ramp, thus causing him to break his back in two places. While Peter initially felt his role in Jesus/Lover was important because he believed “Insanity has elevated to norm. And that is a good thing too. Because the world is crazy,” he could not handle his new infamy, so he killed himself on January 20, 1999. As Chiquita describes regarding her ex-lover, “he was so full of life” but “all this ruined him” and “…Now he’s dead… and I always said: ‘suicide in painless’.”  Forgive Me ultimately ends with a meticulously stylized yet aesthetically vulgar and intentionally kitschy pseudo-sentimental dream-sequence featuring a Zooey Deschanel look-alike (Ellen Ten Damme) with a handgun strapped to her leg frolicking around a scenic beach in a would-be-angelic fashion. Needless to say, the pixie girl’s fun day at the beach is ruined when she happens upon destroyed American army tanks and a critically wounded Vietnam War era U.S. GI (absurdly played by Dutch-speaking junky Arab Achmed) who begs the little lady to kill him, and then goes out of character and tells Frisch to turn the camera off. After an inter-title appears reading, “Forgive…forgive me my trespasses!,” the girl shoots the GI/Achmed and the film ends. 

 After watching various annoying interviews with auteur Cyrus Frisch, I must admit that he seems like an autistic dilettante and perpetual bullshitter who wastes way too much time trying to justify his art in a groveling and less than sincere pseudo-humanist fashion in what can only be seen as a patently pathetic attempt to appeal mainstream left-wing film critics. In fact, a couple years ago Frisch started something called the “World Problems Project” where he hoped to assemble a group of international filmmakers that altruistic make films about major world problems so as to, “give a real impetus to constructive solutions,” thus reflecting the Dutch filmmaker's exceedingly exaggerated and seemingly megalomaniacal sense of importance as a serious 'artiste.'  Personally, I would have a lot more respect for Frisch if he just confessed he was a misanthropic and nihilistic psychopath and took a more stoic stance towards exploiting drunks, cripples, junkies, and human tragedy.  After all, the last thing the world needs is another artist that thinks that they can save the world.  In 2011, Frisch did a speech called “The Story of a Filmmaker Who Got Frustrated Because He Never Saved a Life” in Hong Kong for something called MaD (aka ‘Make a Difference’) where he almost breaks downs crying while complaining about how he wishes his films could save peoples’ lives and then shows a scene from his work Blackwater Fever (2008) where the seemingly ethno-masochistic protagonist of the film cries hysterically because he feels impotent in the face of saving the lives of AIDS-ridden African negroes. Of course, as Frisch’s own work Forgive Me clearly demonstrates, the Netherlands has enough of its own serious social and cultural problems for a Dutch filmmaker to feel the need to worry about the problems of the third world. Of course, as a fellow that morbidly made a film featuring the death, funeral, and cremation of his mentor and whose debut feature Forgive Me more or less resulted in the suicide of one of its subjects, Frisch’s oeuvre is probably as sincere in its supposed humanism as Kurt Gerron’s Theresienstadt. Ein Dokumentarfilm aus dem jüdischen Siedlungsgebiet (1944) aka The Führer Gives the Jews a City (1944), Sergei Eisenstein’s suppressed 1937 work Bezhin Meadow (which was partially made to cover-up the 1932-1933 Soviet genocidal famine Holodomor), and Harmony Korine’s Gummo (1997). Indeed, I am sure Frisch was laughing to himself when he came up with the title for Forgive Me, as he is a sort of Geraldo Rivera of the Dutch avant-garde film world, albeit minus the superficial charm and charisma. Unquestionably, culturally deracinated western liberal democracies are great at producing autistic and psychopathic individuals and Frisch is just as much a product of contemporary Holland as the anti-superstars of Forgive Me.  Had Frisch lived in the Netherlands during an earlier era before the emergence of a morally bankrupt welfare state that pays for trannys to get sex changes (!), he might have grown up to be a Calvinist minister as reflected in his mostly flat affect.  Indeed, while I enjoyed Forgive Me to some extent, I certainly find Frisch more disturbing than any of his works.

-Ty E

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great review Ty! Frisch kinda reminds me of Dutch artist Tinkebell, her work has been condemned by society since she made a handbag out of her sick cat.. she made a book with all the death threats she got for it.. (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvsDoeA-DhWr5SPvZnug3cg)
She wants to show the world about animal cruelty but instead people think she's the abuser herself..
A strange girl... a strange world...

I loved your writings on Ditvoorst!