Sunday, October 12, 2014

Izbavitelj (1976)

Like a lot of foreigner fare, Izbavitelj doesn't really care about staying inside genre lines.  This has horror aplenty, but it also includes romance and overall leans a lot toward dark fantasy.  Schizophrenic and psychedelic!  But October doesn't have genre police yet, so let's tuck into it.

Like almost everybody in his town, would-be writer Ivan is poor.  No one will buy his novels about a pestilence overtaking this town because the real town is full of decaying infrastructure and a faltering economy.  Doom and gloom only sell in robust settings, but soon Ivan has even more to cry about.  After losing his flat, he's forced to sleep in an abandoned bank.  Ah, Izbavitelj, is this another of your metaphors?

Don't worry, it gets worse.  The bank is home to a large half-swastika table, around which are gathered rats in human form!  Rats being great opportunists, they plan to take advantage of the town's troubles and displace the human population.  Even though some of the rats look like sexy widows (middle, below), this would probably be a bad thing and Ivan teams with a scientist to stop them.

The highs here are Kafka highs.  The concepts and frights are ridiculous, yet do convey some genuine dread.  This is a film that's pretty steeped in paranoia, especially in its second half.  The movie itself lets you know that we're dealing with heavy allegory, as Ivan explains his novel in terms of plagues-as-symbolism (for bureaucracy).  Since the film's operating on a certain level of artifice, it doesn't bother trying to sell all this as hyper-real, unlike Mimic or something.  It just gives you a narrative and you either accept it or not.

I liked this quite a bit, but I think people who approach it with certain expectations are going to be disappointed.  It's definitely not a straight horror flick and plays things with a heavy dose of surrealism.  But!  Viewers who expect a completely outrageous or nutso story are probably not going to be satisfied either.  The languid nature of the narrative and the relatively comprehensible unfolding of events make this more akin to a fable than some art student's master thesis.  


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