Saturday, 16 July 2011

Altered States [1980]

British enfant terrible Ken Russell’s Altered States was an adaptation of a book of the same name by Paddy Chayefsky, but the author (who was also the screenwriter for the movie) disowned it after he saw the final cut. The movie starred William Hurt as an eccentric underground scientist who is obsessed with his experiments on altered states of human consciousness and human evolution – so much so that he starts resorting his bizarre experiments on himself. Suffice it to say, the consequences of his spending hours in an enclosed chamber and self-infliction of hallucinogenic drugs, are grotesque to say the least. Accompanying him on this fantastical journey are his loving wife, his ever-loyal friend, and a disbelieving doctor. The director juxtaposed the ominous tone with prolonged usage of psychedelic lights, imageries and sounds, to present us a movie that does a decent job in treading the fine line between a disturbing, visceral experience on one hand, and silliness and ludicrosity on the other. Russell’s overt self-indulgence would be evident to anyone who has watched the film, yet there’s also a strangely engaging quality about the disorienting visual fest, outlandish psycho-babble, and especially the excellently crafted sequences with the ape-man that he dished us in this “body horror”. The acting too was good if not great.

Director: Ken Russell
Genre: Psychological Horror/Sci-Fi
Language: English
Country: US


William Brower said...

great review! this movie was by no means perfect, but i still found it enjoyable for most of the reasons you mentioned, especially the visuals.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks William. Yes, it certainly was enjoyable to watch, and reasonably engrossing too.