TADFF 09: Embodiment of Evil
Embodiment of Evil marks José Mojica Marins' return to the big screen as his iconic character Coffin Joe after a decades-long absence. Released from prison after 40 years Coffin Joe continues his search for the woman who will help him gain immortality by preserving his bloodline and also bring about a better human as a result. Coffin Joe recruits some followers, moves into the slums and proceeds to 'interview' young women with a screening process like none other. How is it so unique? When preparing for this film José Mojica Marins went through the S&M clubs in Brazil recruiting only the hardcore members to perform in his film. This is performance art at its most horrific and sickening point.
As Coffin Joe goes about his business of extreme couch casting we are merely observers on this bloody and grotesque trip. Those who get in his way, are dealt with, those who meet his fancy, are kidnapped and hauled back to his basement chamber of horrors. We also watch the Pontos brothers as they hunt for Coffin Joe, carrying out acts of cleansing against inhabitants of the slum, even children. Then there is the Catholic priest who practices self harm with a hand powered electrical generator. Along the way Coffin Joe is haunted by visions of past victims and is more than a little amused with visions of hell, declaring himself free of all belief in false morals.
Embodiment of Evil is a circus freak show and Coffin Joe is the ringmaster. It's performance art. It's an S&M stage show. When a filmmaker like José Mojica Marins makes an appearance at other festivals in full Coffin Joe attire and is rolled into theaters in a coffin you start to get the notion of how to approach this type of film. It's about the showmanship. It's about the spectacle. It's an experience like none other.
And because of that it is difficult to review it, per se. From an observation standpoint I can say that I really liked how they made his haunting visions look like they were pulled right from the film stock of At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul and This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse with makeup and lighting effects. I can also say that I really liked how some scenes were set up and filmed; the Brazilian Black magic scene in particular stands out as being well staged and shot. I can tell you that I really liked the naked Brazilian women, but only when they were naked and not when Coffin Joe's screening process began. That is where is began to go all pear shaped for me.
Because, if you ever get the chance to experience Embodiment of Evil you will be reminded or you have to remind yourself of one thing. Any scene involving hooks, nails, roaches, intestines, lips and the carcass of a dead pig was real and not staged. Remember I said that José Mojica Marins first went recruiting acts for this film in the S&M clubs of Brazil. Well, here they are in all their sadomasochistic glory. Dare I say anything more lest it ruin your experience but I don't know any of my friends who are married where the wife would allow the husband to treat her Tauntaun style but José Mojica Marins' wife does. Baby, that is an odd type of devotion to your man.
Because Embodiment of Evil is about the experience it solicits a response. Here is mine. Personally, I draw the line at violence against women. I like women. A lot. But I cannot condone a film where I watch women subjected to these acts of torture and abuse. Yes it is ironic many of the women in this film are practitioners of these acts. This kind of stuff isn't my bag. I didn't get any enjoyment out of these parts of the film. And, well, to be quite honest I found the rest of the film to be mostly boring, Which is understandable. The intended pay off is supposed to be with those torture scenes and how you feel about those scenes will determine how much you enjoy the film. I do not judge.
I can't call it a miss and I certainly can't call it a hit.