Film Review | La Danza de la Realidad

By Aidan Celeste

Young Alejandro’s journey towards manhood takes on the director’s autobiography via the transformative prism of the imagination
Young Alejandro’s journey towards manhood takes on the director’s autobiography via the transformative prism of the imagination

Jodo, a playful visionary whose passion can easily be misquoted to “rape, rape, rape, with love”, tempers with the well-earned title of a messiah in a return to cinema after 23 years.

In true form he is everywhere, and for ‘La danza de la realidad’ starts off in his hometown of Tocopilla, Chile. The story is led by a child thrown into the world and called Alejandro, the wrath of his father as Jaime, played by Brontis Jodorowsky, and the consoling spirit of a grandfather who can see and knows all, played by Jodo himself.

As for the mother (this is nonetheless a family issue), she is the magical voice who defends, but rebukes young Alejandro when he steps into manhood, and the same one to heal Jamie on his deathbed. In a somewhat unforgettable sequence of events Sara, the mother, hurls herself onto a plague-infested father, and in a brute ecstasy of prayer, excretes the flowing river of god onto her husband.

Mythical as it sounds, this is the archetypal mother that, in Alejandro’s theatre, feels epic but remains part of a movie that looks quite sparse. I’m not so convinced that Jodo is attempting to shock, especially since its raw appeal leaves a lot of breathing space for interpretation.

At times, I could even sense that not everyone can tolerate this makeshift cosplay ensemble, and from any audience I’ve come across, including myself, anyone could easily fall back on something as unnecessary as the slapstick reaction of a laugh – finding safety in that right kind of awkward moment is always a good way to get over it.

True, his images are colourful but they are also crippled and full of melancholy. How else would anyone react to a woman losing her husband while urinating on him in prayer? If anything, this is a moment when Jodo responds to the old tale of, ‘the wound can be healed only by the spear which smote it’, or whatever narrative - be it that of Freud, Jung, or Wagner - one follows.

Full of old tales, a concise analytical attempt at ‘The Dance of Reality’ is futile. The movie is a rather dark moment of hope for the enlightenment, one that does not demand a clear-cut reaction but rather numbs an audience into a cacophony of emotion.

There are too many variables to deal with, too many images interlacing into one screen and all of them point to Jodorowsky’s own prima materia; his biography. Be it with a swift shift from a flock of birds, a dead seascape of sardines, or the sudden rolling of a high tide that is ready to swallow young Alejandro and his companion, Jodo’s prowess lies in an imaginative frenzy of meaning that jumps from one diorama into another.

In young Alejandro’s childhood, where the thrust of the earth’s pull is made pretty clear, everything is intensely populated and as always, at risk of being taken along for a ride by any other story.

This ability to wonder between personal and the rest of the world’s stories so freely only comes to a halt with his father’s own dream as the defiant comrade, Signor Jamie Jodorowsky. Hence, the plot suddenly thickens to a bold line only when Jamie realises his true calling; the mission to assassinate the Chilean General Ibanez.

None other than Jodo himself is at fault for this and by this time, like the child, the audience is made vulnerable enough to believe that yes, anything can happen.

It is very tempting to read the movie as what may be the director’s farewell to the magic of cinema, and a dear apology to his own son Brontis. Playing the part of Jamie, he is given the opportunity to be put into the same shoes of Jodo, his own father and the merciless director who once cast young Brontis for a deadly role in ‘El Topo’(1970).

The epic poem of ‘La danza de la realidad’ builds on such a notion as a crippled manhood, and one’s eternal return to home. As the narrative shifts between Jodo as a son, and Jodo as a father, both Alejandro and Jaime share a singular intention- the instinctual direction to prove themselves as men.

If anything, ‘La danza de la realidad’ doesn’t fall short of being an ode to the narrative act of becoming, and the ability of fiction. For Jodo, this is what cinema is about - transformation - where, like Parsifal, performance is a bridge to the spiritual life from which the destitute learn to fall like an angel, an act of which his imagination never ceases to stop.

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