The Sunday Cult Film Corner: Altered States (1980)

14 Aug


Today has been rather slow and grinding. Mrs Sex Farm is currently in a semi liquid state on the cough watching “Nurse Jackie”, not feeling totally at her best after going out with a few friends last night.That’ll teach her!

Oh and i had vodka instead.

So while lolling around and willing away my own hangover, i just sat and let my mind wander off other dimensions and whatnot. It’s damn good fun. You should try it sometime.

And the idea of higher states of consciousness is just the sort of thing that is kicked around with this weeks installment of the Sunday Cult Film Corner. Ladies and Gentlemen i five to you Ken Russell’s ALTERED STATES.

Based on the novel by Paddy Chayevfsky, Altered States is a sci-fi film starring William hurt as Edward Jessup, a professor who starts to use a flotation tank and sensory deprivation to search for different states of consciousness. His studies take him to indigenous tribes and the introduction of psychedelics. But as he delves deeper into the outer realms of existence trying to find the great ultimate truth, he starts to experience both bizarre hallucinations as well as physical changes to his body as it starts to “devolve”. He soon falls into danger of dropping out of this realm of reality altogether.

Altered States is one mindfuck of a film. At times bizarre and unsettling, it touches upon religion, sex, love and the nature of the universe. Oh and lizards goat headed people! Ken Russell has often explored religious ideas in the past (see The Devils for example) and in this film he uses a lot of religious symbolism and imagery in exploring mankind’s search for a soul and our apparent inbuilt “God Gene” before such a term was even invented.

But it’s the visuals that really take your breath away. Alas, these days most “trippy” visuals would be developed with state of the art CGI, while the visuals in the hallucination scenes in Altered States, while using some special effects, feel much more organic and eye-popping, almost bleeding out through the screen. The scene showing hell and revelations is particularly striking. It was no coincidence that when this film came out it was very popular during the midnight showing with people who would ingest lots of mind altering drugs while watching it. Now that would be hell of an eventful night.

But anyway, what do i know? you have to see it for yourself. So while i go off and crawl into my own shoe, why don’t you ingest some mushrooms, lie back and watch some lovely metaphysical celluloid.

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Posted by on August 14, 2011 in Film


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