On January 25th, 2019, Dusan Makavejev, one of the most prominent figures in Yugoslavian film history – and one of my favourite directors —died at the age of 86. The news of his death had somewhat of a reflective effect on me and I couldn’t help but think of his diverse work.
While of course Makavejev has plenty of fascinating films from W.R Mysteries of the Organism, Montenegro, Coca-Cola Kid, Innocence Unprotected, etc., for me Sweet Movie is and always will be, my ultimate favourite.
Makavejev’s style is rather complicated, though he does enjoy particular leitmotifs, such as a satirical approach towards Eastern European totalitarian tendencies, Marxism and the bourgeoisie, psychoanalytic theory, freedom and revolution.
Sweet Movie is a radical, avant-garde, sexploitation film that created massive controversy upon its release. Being perceived as sexually explicit and pornographic, the film faced severe censorship in many countries, following the legacy of W.R Mysteries of the Organism which was banned in Yugoslavia and made Makavejev a persona non grata.
The plot revolves around two main narratives. One is focused on Miss Monde 1984/Miss Canada (Carole Laure), winner of the virgin prize and newlywed to Mr. Kapital (John Vernon), a billionaire with particular kinks.
“Sweet Movie is a radical, avant-garde, sexploitation film that created massive controversy upon its release. Being perceived as sexually explicit and pornographic, the film faced severe censorship in many countries, following the legacy of W.R Mysteries of the Organism which was banned in Yugoslavia and made Makavejev a persona non grata.”
We follow Miss Canada’s endeavours as she escapes her husband’s golden prostate and reaches Paris, has passionate sex with El Macho, a Latin lip-singer in Eiffel Tour, joins an anarchic commune that engage in sexual acts that touch upon the fabric of numerous sexual desires and kinks, to finally choking to death fully covered in chocolate while shooting a commercial advertisement.
The second narrative focuses on Anna Planeta (Anna Prucnal), who travels down a river on a boat filled with candy and the face of a crying Marx on its prow, searching for the lost land of Utopia. During her search, she meets the sailor Potemkin who joins her and together they embark on a gruesome adventure that involves lots of sex and murder and Planeta strip teasing in front of a group of boys while Russian orthodox music plays in the background.
The narratives are casually interrupted by real archive footage of mass graves.
I don’t know if technically speaking Sweet Movie is a good movie. For me, it is a masterpiece. Makavejev’s attention to sensation and corporeality together with the constant contradictions his work provides – both in terms of plot and visual stimuli – make a fascinating portrayal of the Death/Eros drive and are an attempt of an exceptionally raw portrayal of subjectivity. I kept finding myself thinking of that particular scene because it made me feel uncomfortable at the time, as if you are not supposed to see these type of things in a film, and that is exactly why I think this movie is so extraordinary.
In its surrealism and absurdity, Sweet Movie touches upon issues regarding the body, sexuality and revolution in an explosive manner. Which, while shocking, is nevertheless relatable on so many different levels.