Tuesday, October 03, 2006

JOHANNA - Love Without Judgement, Part Two

Mrs Pamela Voorhees:  Do you know what your gift is?JOHANNA is by far the weirdest film I have seen this year. And when I say that remember that I also watched DUMPLINGS - a movie where women in Hong Kong eat dumplings made of aborted human foetuses in order to look young. The extreme nature of JOHANNA makes it very difficult to review. My guess is that you'll either love it or hate it. I started off thinking it was a bizarre nightmare but by the end I was convinced it was a work of breath-taking originality and vision - the sort of movie that restores your faith in independent cinema. I guess the best thing I can say is that you should consider renting it and giving it a go because, at around 80 minutes, it has to be worth your time to maybe experience something this bizarrely wonderful.

JOHANNA is a low-budget Hungarian movie. It is set in a nightmarish near-derelict hospital populated by seemingly abandoned children, geriatrics and a bunch of doctors and nurses whose old-fashioned uniforms look translucent in the green luminous light. As the movie opens an emaciated junkie called Johanna is scavenging for morphine. Chased by a doctor she falls and sustains massive head-injuries. Somehow, she survives but with amnesia and a "gift": she can cure the sick by having sex with them. Oh yes. At first, the doctors believe the sick to be deluded and Johanna to be a slut, but even when the miracle is proved true, they continue to persecute her. Her good-looking doctor friend resents the fact that she will "cure" any old codger but won't sleep with him. But most of all, it is her method of healing that it outrageous. As one particularly astute patient observes - a person who heals with their hands is a saint. Why should it be any different for Johanna? The doctors believe she "has a gift but no respect" and decide that her "death will benefit the system". By the way, did I mention that the entire movie is a sung original operetta?

JOHANNA is crazy. It is provocative. It is occasionally funny but often rather frightening. It challenges our conceptions of sexuality and morality and ends with a message and vision so bleak as to be shocking. And all in eighty minutes. I can't say that I'd want to endure it again, and I had a certain sympathy for the people in the screening I attended who walked out after twenty minutes. You have to make a decision to go with it - to enter into the crazy set-up. But after that, and with a bit of luck, you could find you are watching one of the momst memorable, original and moving films I have seen all year.

JOHANNA played Cannes 2005 and went on release in Hungary last year. It opened in Belgium in July and is currently on super-limited release in the UK.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. If nothing else this sounds unique. Thanks for the heads up on both this film and "Dumplings"