Edwin Brienen  

Dutch director of several in-your-face cinematic acts of terrorism, a provocateur, sometimes just pointlessly hardcore and extreme in ways that are more a facade of unhinged testosterone than provocation, but sometimes delivering his semi-intelligent nihilistic viewpoint effectively by way of aggressive no-holds-barred cruelty. Also a fan of Fassbinder and the NY underground transgressive cinema. Seemingly a libertine and a follower of the philosophies of De Sade, Nietzsche, Lavey, et al, all of which he exploits often as an excuse to provoke his audience with filth, graphic and violent pornographic acts, and extreme anti-conservatism. Frequently points out the nihilism and exploitation inherent in the world on both a global and personal scale, whether it is employed by the powers-that-be, or by a cruel lover in a constant stream of extremely abusive relationships. Entertains conspiracy theories, and frequently uses his characters as mouthpieces for rants and speeches, whether they are political, philosophical or misanthropic in nature, and usually a combination of all three. His characters also indulge often in cruelty and extreme acts of kink, bestial lust and degradation just to prove a point, or as metaphor for the state of the world. Many of his movies are musicals of the most confrontational and eclectic variety, with characters lip-syncing to a variety of music according to the mood of the scene. Several characters take blasphemous pot-shots at Christianity while being tormented by inner guilt and teachings from their Christian past. Earlier movies tend to be more pointlessly trashy and experimental, and later movies are more interesting and surreal. In between, he also makes some relatively more subdued and almost conventional movies with similar provocative themes, such as 'Lena Wants to Know Once and For All' and 'Viva Europa!'. Ironically, it is one of his least extreme movies that I found the most hard-hitting, provocative and insightful: 'Both Ends Burning' which portrays broken, very cruel relationships via the current weltanschauung of destructive narcissism, and the fears that this brings. This movie made me re-evaluate some of his other movies. Reviewed until 2016.

Of Some Interest

Brienen uses an ex-stripper called Alice as his 'Candide' as she becomes involved in a surreal thriller plot based on Snowden's story, with several people and entities trying to impose their viewpoints on her. It starts with a version of a god who seems just as exasperated and restricted by rules as the rest of us, playing chess with 'Death', causing death amongst humans based on a mere game with unknown rules. This sets the tone for the movie as Alice interacts with her Snowden-esque, over-idealistic boyfriend, as well as violent government agents, a devout nun that constantly tries to see meaning and a mission (and sins) in everything, and surreal scenes involving Alice in Wonderland characters imposing madcap missions on her, Python-esque silly animations, a confrontational performance-art rant in a bathroom about life being based on violence and power, her boyfriend's mother who is pro-government, etc. But she is not having any of it, struggling through these various confrontations, until her final epiphany. The rants against the establishment are cliche, but this is both playful and provocative, a surreal musical about the many fake and absurd impositions that life tries to force on us. A revisitation of themes from his earlier film Revision.

Revision - Apocalypse II  
Traci is a disillusioned ex-Christian who is struggling with the inherent nihilism in the world and lack of control with which the powers-that-be have left her. Her boyfriend suggests simply giving in to the evil and committing the worst crime in order to spite God. Her reality soon splinters and nothing seems real anymore, as exemplified by the surreal illusionist character who keeps appearing and performing tricks. Another of her inner characters is a demented dark force who scowls, screams and lip-syncs at the camera to hardcore-harsh-electro-punk music by the band House of Destructo. He inspires the gory and transgressive scenes that ensue, which may or may not be taking place in her mind. Another surreal character is none other than Jesus himself whose zealotry turns libidinous and eventually wants more from her than just her soul in a blasphemous symbolic scene. She and her friends discuss the oppressive world-state and power-hungry business, the nihilism underlying it all, and the population control via fear and religion. What is a girl to do when she gets tired of showing her tits and there is seemingly no meaning left in the world? A more accomplished film by Brienen portraying a world going through an apocalypse while looking normal, as seen through the eyes of his characters. Although it is still weighed down by all the actors being mouthpieces for tired conspiracy theories. Not that the world isn't a huge lie and isn't run by these people; but he is simply giving them too much credit in planning it.

Brienen's first full-length creation is half nihilistic cinematic terrorism and philosophical manifesto, half juvenile provocation full of filth and tiresome shock tactics. Six characters serve as mouthpieces for Brienen's ideas which are mostly taken from De Sade and some from Nietzsche et al. Self-interest and momentary desire are the masters, not idealisms or conservative morals, and such conservative advocates need to be shaken from their trees using active brain-powered nihilistic terrorism and random acts of depravity and violence. While they are at it, their partners in crime, random depressed women, and ex-friends down on their luck, all receive their share of abuse as well. One scene features a woman getting raped by the Dutch version of Santa Claus while a man in blackface watches and masturbates, another scene presents Jesus, after being rejected by an SS officer, graphically masturbating onto his cross. A TV executive is kidnapped and given the full treatment, which includes male oral rape and lectures. We get many lectures in the form of rants from the protagonists. There is an attempt at making all of this filth an intelligent provocation for nihilistic aggression, which is why the movie maintains interest for a while, but the bottom line is that this feels like a rehash of De Sade's chaotic and illogical thoughts featuring a group of people that are slaves to their own whims, testosterone, desires and anger. This is not will-to-power, but impulse-to-will.


Edwin Brienen's Hysteria  
Wildly experimental cinema featuring some silent throwback expressionism cut together with headache-inducing random montages, repeating footage of a woman being chased naked in the snow by a man in a mask, rape, tarot and crystal balls, and some extreme scenes of male sodomy, abuse and fisting. The silent sub-movie presents a group of people performing some sleazy exploitation melodrama, some S&M, then a sexually ambiguous person sings an opera, then they turn vampiric and insane while abusing each other. The grating soundtrack is as annoying as it can get: Noise that sounds like a warped radio tuner, classical music mixed with gunshots, beeps and tones like a cat on a synthesizer, pounding industrial beats and electronica, electronic vibrations, etc. It all only adds up to something that requires an aspirin. Of course there's always going to be some idiot that will call this artistic. Color filters, transgressive imagery and montages do not an art movie make.

A variation on some themes from Last Performance and Hysteria, specifically the world of art, acting, and film-making as a metaphor for life which consists of lies and commercialism and endless struggles for power and cruelty, and the use of transgressive confrontation and submission in order to create art. None of this is new or insightful, and the approach here is a strange mix of art-house dark comedy, broadly drawn characters, and lots of inserted transgressive imagery and a pounding atmospheric electronica soundtrack. Eva is an actress who only previously worked for Brienen. She is trying to get a part in a new art-film with a very abusive director who hates Brienen. She soon turns into a submissive prostitute for her art, but she is haunted by surreal dreams of men and creatures chasing her while she is running naked, as well as a barrage of apocalyptic and horror imagery from paintings and film. It's the corrupt and horny Jewish producer that gets psycho-analyzed to death for some reason, while everyone else tries to exploit everyone else. It's unclear if this awkward mix of broad comedy, dark misanthropy and video-art has its own opinion and what it may be, and it seems to be either pointing out the ubiquitous nihilistic exploitation in the world without any alternative, or embracing it, but at least the dream-sequences are striking.

Last Performance  
Relatively conventional and subdued by Brienen's standards of the time, but this is still trashy melodrama with endless lurid sex and warped people exploring and indulging in the darker side of humanity. It takes place in a New-York theatre setting with a theatrical troupe managed by a Laveyan Satanist director. There is also a love triangle with both a gay actor and a female one in love with a cruel, melodramatic gay actor who can't come to terms with his homosexuality so he hires trashy people to rape and abuse his admirers instead while keeping them on a short leash. Themes of fake masculinity and hidden gay subtexts in violent acts of sex and macho attitudes are explored, as are some people's need for degrading filthy abuse in order to connect with themselves. De Sade comes to mind, but the characters quote Goethe and philosophies of Schopenhauer. As the love triangle grows with its neurotic broken-down struggles of power, the theatre director sets up the actor's last performance involving both symbolically loving and stabbing of a baby in another display of power dynamics between humans, demonic rape, and murder, some of which bleeds into their reality. The 'performance' turns out to be a metaphor for life itself. The melodramatic theatrics, lurid trashy sex and pseudo-philosophy make this a tiring, tacky watch, despite the visually striking cinematography and artsy sets. This exploration of darkness weakened everybody involved. Satan would disown this.

Life Pornography (AKA Berlin Nights)  
Brienen delivers another tiresomely angry and desperate movie that expends so much endless energy just trying to provoke and disgust, that it is instantly boring. Another troupe of angry, depressed and generally screwed up people take out their frustrations on all that is banal, ordinary and conservative. A woman yells at us for our banal tastes and our hypocritical accusing fingers amidst a montage of extreme pornographic filth. Then the various characters, most of them actors desperately looking for a job, land a sex-act in Germany, rant, lust, screw and abuse each other, or throw themselves at each other or at strangers in desperate acts of kink, like sexual addicts having a crisis. There's a fat gay man who tells a story of how he murdered his mother, another gay man who is depressed over having dumped his HIV-positive boyfriend, a man who hates his wife and takes it out on her, various sexual abuses involving fisting and so on, all backed by a grating electro-noise soundtrack. Get over your teenage-rebellion-act, guys, and come back when you have something to say.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents