January 26, 2006

DVD Review: Vergeef Me (Forgive Me)

When I started watching this movie, I was not sure quite what I was watching. Of course, it didn't really help that I knew nothing about the movie, and information in English was a little more than scarce. Was it a documentary? Some sort of cleverly disguised fictional work? Perhaps it was avant garde improv. Maybe it was some sort of combination of the above.

The more I watched of Vergeef Me, I came to realize that it was some sort of twisted reality film. Once it finally reached its conclusion, I was stunned. I found this film, and by way of involvement, the director, to be totally revolting. I cannot believe that he was allowed to make this film. OK, let me back up a little bit.

The cast, such as it is, is comprised of social outcasts, drunks, drug addicts, mentally and/or physically disabled. We sit and watch as the director interacts with these people. The talk seems innocent, but the more you watch, these people are being subtly manipulated by this man. The first half of the film is filled with character introductions, all building to the centerpiece which is some sort of free form live theater, where the subjects are pretty much allowed to do whatever while the cameras roll.

It seems that director Cyrus Frisch set out to make a film to turn off the audience, to push the limits of what is acceptable. In my opinion, he reached it and went well beyond. Nobody should be treated the way he treats these people.

The film really defies explanation. I sat stunned as these people did exactly what Frisch wanted, without him giving them explicit instructions. He was there giving them little nudges and let them take the thought to fruition.

Words are escaping me. I am speechless, I mean it! These people need help, they don't deserve to be treated like animals. He gets them to act in ways that they would not normally. The problems continue as they become confused between reality and these false thoughts that Frisch is implanting. This is culminated in a letter read by one of the "performers."

Cyrus Frisch takes advantage of these people, they have no idea what they are getting into. Frisch encourages them to act out their basest instincts on stage in front of an audience. Worse still, it seems the critics actually liked it. Calling it the start of reality theater. It really makes me sick. This film is awful, the sop-called creative mind behind it is sickening. The idea of anyone actually watching this and deriving any type of enjoyment have more issues going on.

I enjoy sick, twisted, and disturbing films. This goes beyond that, into a realm where we should not be going. These are dangerous waters if people like Cyrus Frisch are allowed to, essentially, have free reign in these peoples lives, who is to say where we should stop?

For example, there is a scene where they are talking to an obviously drunk man, he urinates himself, falls out of his chair into the puddle, and lays there. Rather than help, he is allowed to remain there while the next person is brought in to talk to. Cyrus mentions here earlier desire to take her clothes of, she takes this as he wants her to and proceeds to pull up her shirt. Another scene has hi talking to a man and his mother, innocently, while he smears a red, blood like liquid all over his face. He then tells him to explain how he got his head wound.

Is this film a commentary on where society is heading? Do we have a desire to watch this misery dance across those picture tubes under the guise of entertainment? How far is too far? Will this concept of reality television devolve to the point of dragging the homeless onto the screen in order for us to gawk at them? Is this work of Cyrus Frisch a work of genius wrapped in the gauze of exploitative trash? Does the sheer fact that I watched this make me an unwitting accomplice in the destruction of these people? Am I just as much at fault?

This movie, despite the fact that it turns my stomach, has haunted me ever since I watched it. Is that a signal that it is worthy? Perhaps the fact that it has dwelled in my head for so long makes it a work that has accomplished its goal. Maybe me writing about it is giving it some sort of credibility. Is this what he wants? Is this review nothing more than another way that Frisch is using people to disseminate his propaganda.

Apparently, Frisch drew his inspiration from talk show hosts such as Oprah Winfrey and Jerry Springer. He decided to take that to the next level, go beyond the realm of the acceptable. In essence, not doing much different than those talk show hosts, giving his 'guests' ideas and letting them run with them. It goes to the line and just blasts on through.

Man, the thought that he put these people on stage to act out whatever ideas they were given. The line between the real and the surreal blurring for the subjects on stage, while the audience pays to gawk at the confusion.

In the liner notes, Frisch says that there is no reason that a viewer cannot enjoy this, saying that it is "no less sickening, hypocritical or opportunistic than the average program on television." I find this to be patently false. I for one find a big difference between the shows that I watch which deal in fictional characters, and this, which actively works in a negative fashion on the real lives of real people. Perhaps Cyrus Frisch should re-examine his perceptions of fiction and non-fiction, perhaps it wasn't just the "subjects" of his project that had their lines of reality blurred.

It is a slippery slope.

NOT Recommended.

The DVD is available at HKFlix.com


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