The Dance of Reality (2013)

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La Danza de Realidad. A very personal film by Alejandro Jodorowsky, in which he tries to come to terms with his past and especially his stern father. The city of his youth suffers economically, while Alejandro’s communist father tries to make his son grow up in his image. Set in Chile in troubled times but shot like a fairy tale, Jodorowsky offers us a visual feast of metaphors and passionate filmmaking that you won’t forget.

The new film of virtuoso director Alejandro Jodorowsky! And he makes it no secret that he is the director, because after the title of the film – La Danza de Realidad – fades away, Jodorowsky’s face appears like Big Brother on the screen. He gives us a sermon about the virtues and vices of money before the film starts properly. Jodorowsky has a tendency to be very present in his own movies, like a ringmaster in a circus unsubtly explaining what is going on.

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So we enter the film with full knowledge that the director wants us to learn something, to interpret the film in specific ways. It feels like the film is burdened by this from the very first seconds. And the reason for this, as far as I can tell, is that The Dance of Reality is about Jodorowsky’s own past. The story is set in Chile, in the foggy desert lands of the north, and we are introduced to Jodorowsky as a girlish boy and his stern father.

There is the weirdest Oepidus-like underbelly in this film, because the actor playing Jodorowsky’s father is in reality Jodorowsky’s son. And his mother is played by a huge-bosomed woman who sings all her lines like an opera Valkyrie. Jodorowsky himself appears as a ghost to comfort his earlier self. Alejandro’s father Jaime is a harsh communist businessman who only cares about money and class, while his mother says that the little boy is an angel. The main character is really the father Jaime, and Brontis Jodorowsky gives a really spirited performance. More family members play roles in this one, and you can recognize the family features.

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Visually, the movie is stunning. The world of the director’s past is presented as some kind of fairy tale land of bright colors. Also, his trademark of visual storytelling is back, to humorous or striking effect. Take for example that Alejandro’s father takes the radio, puts it in the toilet and nonchalantly pisses over it, while the radio voice talks about the economic troubles in the world. “Lying piece of shit”, pronounces the father while the radio lies smoking in piss. More than that ends up in that toilet.

It is a delectable procession of WTF moments. The whole film is like a circus with grotesque shows. Still, it is more focused and easier to understand than Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain. Many staples of his filmmaking are present, like his fascination with crippled people, who are a ready element of metaphoric meanings in all kinds of situations. As an autobiography, the film feels terribly pretentious, showing young Alejandro as a saintly figure while the harsh reality of the world doesn’t comply with his saintliness. It is also beautiful at the same time.

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It is the kind of film where you don’t really know how to feel, because the dance of reality can be confusing. You do something good, which changes into something bad, and then something unexpected happens. The story is a dance of relief and suffering and relief again in a new direction. We think the world is black and white, and then it turns out more complicated than we thought. The story also changes in direction about halfway through, which is also something we have seen before in Jodorowsky’s movies, but the pacing goes down as well and it hurts the enjoyment.

The Dance of Reality would make a good introduction to Jodorowsky’s style of filmmaking. It is one of his more accessible films (and that’s saying something!). It is very entertaining, comedic, shocking at times and quite beautiful. I kept giggling and exclaiming in wonder. Grotesque and beautiful, but also lengthy towards the end. There is just so much happening and so much to take in all the time that you need a breather. Let the film settle down inside you while you’re watching. Give it some space and the less expectations you will put on it, the more it will surprise you.

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