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Begotten
Begotten
Actors: Brian Salzberg, Donna Dempsey, Stephen Charles Barry, Adolfo Vargas, James Gandia
Director: E. Elias Merhige
Genres: Indie & Art House, Horror, Cult Movies
UR     2001     1hr 18min

BEGOTTEN is the creation myth brought to life, the story of no less than the violent death of God and the (re)birth of nature on a barren earth. Astounding and baffling critics and audiences alike, BEGOTTEN was named one ...  more »

     
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Movie Details

Actors: Brian Salzberg, Donna Dempsey, Stephen Charles Barry, Adolfo Vargas, James Gandia
Director: E. Elias Merhige
Genres: Indie & Art House, Horror, Cult Movies
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Horror, Drama
Studio: World Artists
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 02/20/2001
Original Release Date: 06/05/1991
Theatrical Release Date: 06/05/1991
Release Year: 2001
Run Time: 1hr 18min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 40
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Five Stars For the Weirdness of the Whole Thing
Jeffrey Leach | Omaha, NE USA | 10/29/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Is it compelling? Very. Is it arty? Often. Is it atmospheric? Indubitably. Is it entertaining? Rarely, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. "Begotten," a wildly inventive low budget film imagined and subsequently lensed by E. Elias Merhige will leave a lasting scar on anyone who watches his nightmarish vision. The celluloid equivalent of a bad dream best forgotten, Merhige's pet project continues to mark its viewers; I occasionally hear people discussing this movie even though it came out over ten years ago. No matter what you come away with after watching "Begotten," you will remember it for ages to come. Nothing approaches its visceral power, its unshakable commitment to weirdness, and its disgustingly haunting imagery. Yes, "Begotten" is all of these things to some and much less to many. I have seen it and still cannot define exactly what I saw or successfully integrate the various scenes into a coherent whole. Perhaps subsequent viewings will uncover a few more details, but I somehow rather doubt that it will. I hope it will be enough to cryptically smile and nod sagely in lieu of explaining the plot the next time someone I know mentions this film. If I ever have to explicate on Merhige's monster to save my life, I could be in a heap of trouble.What is "Begotten"? It is roughly eighty minutes of a black and white movie showing scenes of mutilation, madness, and murder. The whole thing deals with a sort of primordial or futuristic creation/death ritual carried out between the gods and mankind, or at least I think it does from the few articles I have read about the movie. Probably the easiest scenes to discern are the opening ones, where the camera reveals a twitching creature with a substance disturbingly comparable to blood pouring out of its mouth. With some sort of razor, the being cuts open its own abdomen (in chunky detail) in order to give birth to a new life form. This new goddess and a weird creation coughing up what looks like a piece of meat go forth to encounter shambling primitives who eventually beat these creatures to death. The whole film moves at a snail's pace, with many of the later scenes nearly impenetrable to the eye even on a DVD transfer. Far from being filmed in glaring color reminiscent of an episode of the Brady Bunch, "Begotten" uses a complicated technique to create a type of black and white picture rarely if ever seen by this viewer. The film employs deliberate scratches on the negative and some sort of treatment that makes the unearthly images contained within glow with a sickly light. There isn't a whit of discernable dialogue in the whole movie, with the only sounds being a discordant drone punctuated by occasional rattles, labored breathing, chimes, and the sounds of water. The sun rises and sets with alarming regularity, but this hint at the passage of time provides no respite for the viewer as the nightmare unfolds onscreen. I could so easily dismiss "Begotten" as utter garbage except for one niggling concern: I could rarely take my eyes off the television screen. What IS going on here? Who knows, but it carries an appeal similar to a car accident on the freeway. Merhige should receive a compliment for at least trying to accomplish something different with this movie. I'm not surprised in the least to learn that Marilyn Manson retained his services to direct one of his music videos, either. In short, if "Begotten" isn't the strangest, eeriest thing you will ever watch, you have explored bleaker vistas than I. I should conclude with an apology for speaking about this film by using so many superlatives, but watch it and see why I did so."
Watch it !
verill | 08/31/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"BEGOTTEN is without any doubt one of the most radical and fascinating experimental films ever to appear on the screen. Repeated comparisons to David Lynch's dark masterpiece ERASERHEAD are, in my opinion, only partially right, because besides the fact that both movies are shot in b&w they have only the great and carefully designed soundtrack in common. BEGOTTEN takes place in a whole other ballpark and there's no Lynchian touch in Merhige's work at.
At the beginning we witness in a very insistent scene GOD KILLING HIMSELF with a razorblade (he looks a little bit like Marylin Manson, no joke !). The result of this suicide is the birth of MOTHER EARTH who is then wandering around the earth and giving birth to her SON OF EARTH - FLESH ON BONE. Only a few moments later the two find themselves being kidnapped, raped and tortured by a bunch of disguised creatures (wearing coats like the Sandpeople in "Star Wars" !) and finally MOTHER EARTH and her SON got killed and all life on the planet stands still and flowers wither. But then there grows new life and we see MOTHER EARTH reborn and once again on her way to her journey with new hope.
Well, this is my try of a synopsis of the film. Edmund Elias Merhige who not only directed but also wrote, produced, edited and photographed the film delivered a tremendous piece of art which is both enthralling and highly poetic. He spend nearly four years only to create this nightmarish visual style with the effect of grained images and stylized footage that often reminds me of old silent pictures or documentary footage from WW2.
The soundtrack is, as mentioned above, made with great meticulousness. For example: in the scenes where God is killing himself we only hear waterdrops (or something like that) and the heavy breathing of the creature as well as the sound of the razorblade cutting through the flesh (very exiting and haunting !). Later on when MOTHER EARTH is travelling around we hear naturally sounds like windblowing or chirping and footsteps and breathing of the various participants onscreen. Some synthie sounds intensify the cruel atmosphere in the torture scenes and creat a state of melancholia in the scenes of the rebirth.
The transfer of the movie is well done. The extras on the DVD are a little bit of a letdown: no audio commentary, a dissapointing and unnecessary still archive (just push the "pause" button on your remote and you'll get the same effect !), and a really weird trailer. The booklet though is great: it contains not only a helpful introduction to the movie by Scott MacDonald but also an interview with director Merhige as well as a short biography of the latter.
Being one of the most important films of the last twenty years BEGOTTEN is highly recommended and is definitely a must-see !"
Definitely Not a Dinner Movie
Bradley W. Newman | North Garden, VA USA | 05/24/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"It's midnight and I am hungry so I sit down on the couch with a bowl of cereal and the VHS jumps into the first scene.

For ten minutes my cereal just sat there in the milk, I couldn't touch it, didn't even want to look at it, I just stared at the television, slackjawed and silent. I can't even explain what I was thinking. This 78min black and white is in short about the death of God (God kills Itself to give birth to another), the rise and death of Mother Earth, the birth and demise of Man, and the manipulation of man by other creatures on Earth.

The movie was not supposed to be entertaining, and it wasn't; yet, there is this indelible fascination to keep watching. The film used in taping, is in itself art. It is something called speckled chiaroscuro, which in short looks like vintage black and white, along with deliberate scratches and printed dust. It succeeds in leaving nothing short of mere imagination for the viewer to deal with - I couldn't discern what exactly I was experiencing, apart from my own wandering thoughts lost in the scenes portraying death, mutilation, murder... and a continual living pulse; a rythmic trance of life and death.

The sound effects were eerie, and equally horrific as were the actors themselves while both were displaced within the quivering scenes that unfortunately seemed to drag on forever. Perhaps that is my only complaint. The scenes were long, though they seemed to dig deeper into my counscience each moment that I spent dazing into the catacombs of horror and time. So I am sure there was a reason behind the madness.

I won't reccomend this to anyone unless I have had a lengthy conversation with you and know your boundaries. But if you scroll through Amazon and see this film in the same neighborhood of movies that interest you, those that are not your typical Hollywood crap, and actually push you to confront that which you believe to already know; then yes, see if you can rent it. I won't reccomend it, but won't quit my synopsis without adding that everyone who trully sees, should watch this movie at least once.

"Like a flame burning away the darkness
Life is flesh on bone convulsing above the ground"
"
The ultimate semi-unwatchable student film
David L. Bishop | Corvallis, OR, United States | 09/30/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)

"Yes, this is a very interesting looking movie. And the soundtrack is great. The sound effects really add a lot to the movie as well; in some scenes (if you choose to call anything in this movie a "scene") it is totally necessary to rely upon these effects if you hope to have any clue whatsoever what is going on.
And yet there is no way I'd watch Begotten again, and it's not because it's a haunting vision that tore into the fabric of my soul or anything. I would never watch this again because it's pretentious and, frankly, rather boring.
It really is a great-looking movie. The opening few minutes with God Killing Himself doing what his name implies, and the subsequent birth and impregnation of Mother Earth, is quite compelling. Then the movie slows...to...a...crawl. This is also around the time Elias Merhige begins to throw in student film conventions like shots of clouds passing and the sun (moon?) setting. And this is also about the time he decides that every scene must last FOREVER. Actions such as stabbings/clubbings go on and on, with nothing to keep up viewers' attention. The editing is absolutely leaden. Any of the infrequent quick cuts provide a brief moment of excitement (so those of you expecting a music video should look elsewhere). There's other problems. While establishing shots of windows may make sense in a more conventional film, they accomplish very little in such an overtly symbolic work. I fail to see what numerous shots of the walls of the house where God Kills Himself have to add to the movie.
In the end, this really comes off as the ultimate student film. Merhige clearly loves German Expressionist cinema (as further evidenced by his recent film Shadow of the Vampire). He copies the chirascuro visual style and the heavy symbolism, but I really don't feel like he had anything to say, other than something totally hackneyed like "man kills himself and his environment." And yet the resurrection ending doesn't correspond with this message, unless Merhige is saying something equally banal like "history repeats itself." Oh well, at least he's trying to say something.
I'd recommend checking out some classics of German Expressionism instead (Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis, and Nosferatu, for example). You'd have to be very patient or stubborn to enjoy this movie, though I don't doubt there are those who loved this. Try finding one of them that owns this and then convince them to let you watch the first twenty minutes. That's all you need."