The Dance of Reality

I suppose it makes sense that if anyone is going to film Alejandro Jodorowsky’s life story, it’s going to be Alejandro Jodorowsky. The now 85-year-old director, who hasn’t released a film in over 20 years, returns to the big screen with The Dance of Reality, a semi-autobiographical film that tells the story of its director in a way that only Jodorowsky could tell it. It’s bizarre, it’s weird, it’s — hold on, let me get a thesaurus — creepy, imaginative, eccentric, odd, kooky, outlandish, strange, far-out, and so on.

How does one begin to describe The Dance of Reality? Well, it’s surreal, and often feels like every scene is coming out of a dream — or a nightmare. Every scene is bursting with imagination and creativity. Does it have a plot? Yes, it does, but it’s ultimately irrelevant. The film is autobiographical, apparently, but the plot is less important and less interesting than the images that are presented to us on-screen. Summarizing it is almost pointless, but I’ll do so anyway.

Alejandro (portrayed as a child by Jeremías Herskovits, and as an adult by Jodorowsky himself) grows up in a household with his father, Jaime (Brontis Jodorowsky), who worships Stalin and raises his son with less-than-pleasant methods, and Sara (Pamela Flores), his mother, who sings everything and wishes that her son was her father. I … don’t want to get into that. Anyway, the film follows them — sometimes Jaime, sometimes Alejandro, rarely Sara — and takes them to truly bizarre places, where they see insane things, some of which you’ll want to forget, others of which you won’t be able to erase from your mind.

This is not a film for most people. If you aren’t familiar with Jodorowsky’s previous works, then you’re probably not going to be one to appreciate The Dance of Reality. The director has his own style and ideas, and checking out El Topo and The Holy Mountain before this film is probably a good idea. And if you don’t enjoy those, then this won’t be one to seek out.

I don’t know if that established knowledge base is required to enjoy The Dance of Reality, but it’ll certainly help to know what you’re getting yourself into. Because, and I don’t think I could stress this enough, this is a really weird movie. Really, really, really, really, really, really weird. It feels like watching someone dream — it’s that imaginative and bizarre. And, yet, it kind of all makes sense, kind of all fits together, and kind of functions as a narrative film. Only kind of.

You feel a lot of different things while watching The Dance of Reality. You’ll sometimes be scared, inspired, or repulsed. Some scenes fill you with a sense of awe, while others make you want to look away from the screen — but you don’t, because you know that you won’t see images like this again, unless you decide to re-watch The Dance of Reality, which you probably won’t because it’s not like it’s an easy film to sit through. Or maybe you will. I don’t know you, man. Your life story is a mystery to me. I’m just someone writing things.

A lot of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s family has taken part in this movie. Brontis plays the Stalin-worshiping Jaime, Adan plays a character known as Anarchist, Axel is Theosophist, and, of course, Alejandro plays himself — or, more correctly, he plays “Alejandro,” because the film is totally not at all based on his life. I think that’s all of them. Maye there are more; I wouldn’t know. Do you know any Jodorowskys outside of Alejandro? Do you even know Alejandro? It’s not like he’s a known-name. Well, watch The Dance of Reality and you will know him. That’s kind of the whole point!

The Dance of Reality is a truly weird movie, and there’s no other way to describe it apart from that. This is a personal film for director Alejandro Jodorowsky, as it’s semi-autobiographical. It’s based on his life, anyway, even if many of the bizarre and surreal images are, well, from his imagination. Or maybe it’s all true. I don’t know what Chile was like in the early-to-mid 1900s. All I know is that this is an insane movie whose images will make you feel a range of things — and not all of them are pleasant.

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