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Pensées et visions d'une tête coupée

Released in: 1991
Country: Belgium
Starring: Barbara De Jonghe
Summary: The theme of death is heavily interwoven in Smolder's surreal salute to Belgian painter Antoine Wiertz, Pensees et visions d'une tete coupee / Thoughts and Visions of a Severed Head, a Hieronymus Bosch-type artist whose work centered on humans in various stages in torment, as depicted in expansive canvases with gore galore. Smolders has basically taken a standard documentary and chopped it up, using quotes from the long-dead artist, and periodic statements by a historian (Smolders) filling in a few bits of Wiertz' life.
The museum designed to house the painter's work is like a great multi-roomed barn, displaying paintings as small as a counter, or as big as a three-storey building. Inside the museum, Smolders stages a tour for arriving guests: nattily dressed dwarves who accentuate the painter's mad visions and ego that bleed from the more disturbing works dealing with suicide, infanticide, piles of baby bodies, and monsters opening up their innards while half-naked humans are torn apart by tentacled monsters.
It's a clever play on a predictable film genre, and Smolders uses vivid sounds with his montage of close-ups to evoke the narratives in specific paintings. The short's most unsettling sequence deals with the last moments of a guillotined head, and what the painter allegedly claimed to have seen in real life are paralleled in the headless images embedded in further paintings.
A flash cut of a dying animal is later revealed to be a lengthy pig slaughter (again) that Smolders intercuts with coarse stag porn before the doc's narrative is once again realigned to Wiertz' work. The film closes on a marvelous final shot, and Smolders' own wry closing statement on the film we've just seen.
The museum footage is in colour, whereas the pig slaughter is in grainy black & white, as are a surreal stagings of the dead artist, a figurative motif of a nude child carrying a baby pig, and a few shots of nude portraiture. -
Controversial scenes
Added: 12.12.2009

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