View Full Version : The Dance of Reality (2013)

06-11-2014, 10:10 PM
Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Starring: Brontis Jodorowsky, Jeremías Herskovits, Pamela Flores, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Cristobal Jodorowsky, Bastián Bodenhöfer


One accusation that I've heard leveled against Jodorowsky is that he is too much a madman: that there is nothing to understand about his films, as they are the work of a deranged mind. Deranged? That hardly seems likely. He seems to way far too functional to earn that label. An author as well as a filmmaker, he is clearly a person of some thoughtfulness. What makes him different, however, is that he is a magical thinker. I mean he is a magical thinker in two senses: first, that he is prone to applying causal relationships where, to quote wikipedia, “scientific consensus says that there are none.” Secondly, he is a magical thinker in that his imagination is vivid, almost magical in the connections that makes between various elements of this strange life on Earth.

His personal beliefs, so central to the message of this film, flow from spiritual traditions, from philosophies that depend upon magical thinking for their support. He holds an idea of psychogenealogy, for example, which draws upon Jung's collective unconscious. One can take Jung's ideas more or less literally, but there exists enough ambiguity in the style of Jung's writing that a popular interpretation of the collective unconsciousness is that of a sort of world mind, a sort of wellspring which exists outside of our reality and perhaps unbounded by time. In this way, the experience of the father, and the father's father, are the experience of the son.

The father-son relationship is, of course, key to The Dance of Reality. Ostensibly an autobiographical look at Jodorowsky's childhood, the film diverges quite often from following the story of the child to illustrate the story of the father, perhaps as imagined by the child. My girlfriend, having watched this with me, found this a bit jarring. These two narratives, however, are unified, as one comes to understand the character of the father in The Dance of Reality as a sort of avatar of Alejandro. We all become like our fathers, in at least some ways, and it is our great challenge to differentiate ourselves. It should come as little surprise that part of the abuse heaped upon child-Jodorowsky by his father stems from a desire on the part of the father to slough off any such “weaknesses” that he exhibits.

The elder Jodorowsky represents, in this film, a sort of arch anti-magical thinking mindset. Portrayed as a true-blue communist, he rejects religion as an “opiate of the masses.” When the child escapes into the world of theosophy as a way to experience happiness outside of the bitter realm of his father, the father reacts by flushing the religious symbols which hold such meaning down the toilet. A thinker like Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris will certainly react negatively to such an illustration of a rational thinker. But remember, that in their writings, they essentially patronize the magical-thinker.

But this is perhaps too far a digression from the film itself. After all, as the story unfolds, we see Jaime, Jodorowsky's father, going on a sort of picaresque journey of suffering and redemption. Only, unlike most picaresques, the main character experiences transformation, more in the vein of Apuleius's Lucius than Fielding's Tom Jones. During this journey, we see his strongly-held beliefs stripped away from him as his goals are at once realized, hindered, and transformed. The person he was no longer proves to be a trustworthy guide; he must create for himself a new identity, and indeed perhaps discover what he was all along in the process. It's important to look at this film not as an attack on rational thought, but rather an exploration of how catharsis and suffering can help a person develop a stronger self-awareness, and subsequently develop an identity which provides them with greater happiness.

As a sometime magical-thinker myself, I can relate to and sympathize with Jodorowsky's point of view. When I like to imagine that there is some sort of divine purpose which guides the river of time, I immediately chastise myself for allowing such intellectual indulgences. I know that it is absurd; at times, I wonder if perhaps that is the very reason why I sometimes believe, why I always want to believe. Heresy, of course. I like to mollify myself by saying that I'm somehow different: what I imagine to be sacred, to be god, differs immeasurably from the simplistic, straight-forward theology that we see so often in our culture. But that feels hollow, like I am simply using what intelligence I have to construct a more complicated, more elaborate and perhaps more fashionable way of putting forward what is still simply a magical thought.

Is it cowardice? Perhaps. Perhaps I am simply afraid of being called a lunatic – of thinking myself a lunatic. Certainly, Jodorowsky has no such fears. Although I don't agree with Jodorowsky on what may actually exist and what is true in regards to matters of the spirit, I can't help but admire his willingness to go out on a limb.

Watching a film like this, I find in myself a strong desire to dig deeper. What is the real truth of the matter? Was Jodorowsky's real father this much of a tyrant, or a communist? Was his mother so dramatic and bosomy? Just how many cripples and lepers did he encounter as a child, after all? Ultimately, such matters must remain unknowable. We can no more depend upon a child to accurately portray his father than we can depend upon a painter to paint a relation with photo-realism.

All we can really depend on is to discover truth through the fabulism present in this work. Core truths which shine through and are your own work, and indeed pleasure, to discover.

TLDR: fabulous film. dodgy cgi. a bit sprawling, could afford to be tightened up in editing. tremendous performance from Pamela Flores which is absolutely fearless. beautiful images, thoughtful use of cinema which goes beyond simple point-and-shoot. 5/5 would watch again.

09-12-2014, 04:40 AM
Now this is how you make a film as ambitious as The Tree of Life and actually succeed in expressing the depth of your thoughts.

It's as jarring and surreal as any Jodorowsky film, but the pretence of (imagined) autobiography makes it stand out from the rest of his filmography in a very significant way.