Monday, August 28, 2006

Agony (1981) review

Having seen Elem Klimov's "Come and See" (1985), I was very excited to find that Ruscico had a full-length cut of this film, and in ear-popping 5.1! I won't do an accounting of the oft-repeated saga of Rasputin ("The Mad Monk"), but it should be noted that in present-day Russia, a majority-faction of the Eastern Orthodox Church is working to make old Grigori a saint. This should be distressing to people the world-over, as it shows a possible degeneration (once-more!) in Russian-culture and the social-fabric. By the time Rasputin arrived in Moscow (1907), he had already acquired a lengthy criminal-record, and been defrocked by an order of monks. His life resembles that of Stalin in many-respects. A small-wonder that a faction of the Eastern Orthodox Church is considering making him a saint--Russia must have her gods.

Also, in this early-period, Grigori was involved in a couple religious-cults--one known as the "flaggellents." Another (the name escapes me) taught him the notions of religio-sexual libertinism, and a philosophy of "sinning in-order to be forgiven." He was a drifter, and a pilgrim, a sinner...and possibly, one-day, a saint. But, what characterizes Rasputin was his dishonesty and cunning, as well as an uncontrollable sexual-appetite that is well-documented. Like a modern-day Simon Magus, he considered himself a sovereign, a man who recognized no decorum and no law. In this sense, he most resembles Stalin, and even anticipates him. Klimov seems to imply that Rasputin--through dialog of certain Tsarist courtiers--WAS the Russian people. If this was so, Russian society from 1905-1917 was truly lawless and degenerate, and in free-fall. And yet, much of what really happened (illustrated like a Mario Bava horror by Klimov) supports the notion that Rasputin was almost not a man, but an instrument of social-forces, a Siberian shaman.

In one-instance, he is cunning and calculating, while in another he is literally seized by forces-unseen. It is much like Hitler: social anti-Christs, they were truly men of their time, channelling and completing the spiritual and cultural-deterioration of their countries. The Russian people were looking-for a miracle, but what they got was a nightmare in Rasputin's influence over the Tsarina--and thus, the Tsar. A disaster became worse--a nightmare resembling a hell-on-earth in the Bolsheviks. Truly, Grigori Rasputin was a prophet-of-doom, and Elem Klimov's film illustrates this so expertly. THIS is truly what constitutes horror. Definitive. There is no better depiction of Rasputin's assassination anywhere, it is painful to watch.

PS: Kino is releasing a DVD in the USA of this film--their initial-announcement stated a runtime that is 10-minutes shorter than the Rusico version (NTSC, all-regions), and is in mono. WHY?! I would go with the Rusico-version, it's complete. Kino sometimes has the tendency to overcompress their DVDs, too.