Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Devils (1971)

There's many movies I love, many movies I would have love to be part of in some way. But if I could choose one, only one... it would be The Devils. I could do the laundry for the actors, be a free extra for the whole shoot, cook coffee for Ken Russell or try to calm Oliver Reed every time he got drunk and angry. Why? Because The Devils is one of the most impressive movies I've ever seen - from the sets and acting, to the script and controversy. It's just right up my alley in every way.

Oliver Reed is Father Grandier, a priest - or something higher - who are the local sex symbol in his little town. He loves women, and don't hesitates to have sex with them if that's the offer. The evil, crippled, Cardinal Richelieu (Christopher Logue) wants to crush the city by destroying Grandier, and finds out that Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave) in the local convent is having weird sexual hallucinations about Grandier, and Richelieu uses this to claim that Grandier is a warlock and in collusion with the devil!

So far an ordinary historical drama, but this is so far from that as it could be possible. This is a biting and strong satire over the hypocrisy in the catholic chuch (and probably religion in general), and it's not the least subtle. The catholics are evil, greedy and more or less crazy. So even our hero Grandier, but he at least dares to criticize the church and stands for his own weaknesses and mistakes. He admit that he loves women and like having sex with them, but he also compares that with what the church do to get more power. Grandier is such a complex person, a rather unsympathetic man that we for once can understand. It's well written character and Oliver Reed is not acting, he IS Grandier. 

The further the movie goes, the wilder the catholic church acts in their ways to prove that Grandier is guilty. They lie, they kill, the torture... just to let the world know that their god is the only god and the only god to follow and be scared of. At the end there's a huge orgy, led by the inquisitor Father Barre (a brilliant Michael Gothard), how joins the party himself just to prove how strong the devil is...

The Devils has so many striking scenes that I just don't want to tell to much. This is a magnificent movie that dares to fuck the authorities in the ass, proudly too. You have desecration of christ, the cross, the church, there's violence and sex, nudity and more sex. The language is foul and graphic, but has something to tell. It's powerful words coming from the characters. I must mention Vanessa Redgrave, who plays the hunchback Sister Jeanne. She has strong sexual urges and only dreams about Grandier, even in that way that Jesus transforms to her in a vision and they have sex in the shadow of the cross, in the dirt. Vanessa gives it all, and it could be one of the most brave performances I've ever seen. She's stark raving mad, no doubt about it, but Vanessa is so brilliant that I'm not sure I've anything like it (maybe Isabelle Adjani in Possession, which is as good as it can get).

You should watch The Devils as soon as possible. Prepare for something completely unique, something that will follow you forever. You should also watch it, write about it, love, hate it... what ever you want, just because the church/hypocrites/Warner don't want this movie to be seen. 

Spread the word.

6 comments:

Phantom of Pulp said...

I am so, so with you, Ninja. THE DEVILS is a damn masterpiece. When I was a kid, I used to drool over the poster because it hinted so bluntly at what depravity this film celebrated (?) Well, it was all that and more. My favorite Russel film, and he's made some classics.

Saga Torstensson said...

Couldn't agree more. Visually stunning, extremely well acted and completely insane. Too good for the movie business.

Tobias Thuresson said...

What kind of dvd is this? Searched yesterday but came up with nada.

Ninja Dixon said...

Tobias: It's a bootleg. You can find it on amazon, but I bought it at Monkey Beach. It's anamorphic widescreen, but the quality is vhs-quality. The extras are fun though and until there's a restored version on official dvd this will work fine.

Tobias Thuresson said...

Aah, ok. I´ve never seen the film but I´m positive it´s great.

Divicenzo said...

The Devils is my all-time film!!! Love it! I always do a Grandier speech for my auditions and they love it! At least I know no-one else is using the same old speech...but Ken is much under-appreciated. And, where are his films on DVD!!!
Glad you all like 'The Devils' ☺