The Dance of Reality (2013) | Alejandro Jodorowsky’s fantastical autobiography is a transformative experience

The Dance of RealityIt’s been a long wait between films for Chilean film director Alejandro Jodorowsky (something like 25 years), but it’s been worth it – especially as it has given the 86-year-old auteur the chance to layer this fantastical autobiography with the same mystical elements that he has been studying for over past 60 years, and which he brought together in his magnum opus The Way of Tarot.

Self-realisation, creativity and healing are the cornerstones of that profound study (of which I am a student), and Jodorowsky’s ‘psychomagic’ system is what also drives The Dance of Reality (aka La danza de la realidad), which re-imagines the young Alejandro’s unhappy childhood in the Chilean copper-mining town of Tocopill during the 1930’s.

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‘The story of my life is a constant effort to expand the imagination and its limitations, to capture its therapeutic and transformative potential… An active imagination is the key to such a wide vision: it looks at life from angles that are not our own, imagining other levels of consciousness superior to our own.’ Alejandro Jodorowsky

Transformation is key to all of Jodorowsky’s creative endeavours and this comes to play big time in The Dance of Reality through the character of the father, Jaime (played by Alejandro’s oldest son Brontis), a stern disciplinarian who idolises Stalin, but who is just as much the tryant as his nemesis, Chile’s right-wing dictator, Carlos Ibáñez del Campo (Bastian Bodenhofer), whom he sets out to kill.

The Dance of Reality (2013)

Jaime’s journey is all about the destruction of the ego, and this is manifested in the paralysis of his hands when his assassination plan fails and Jaime is propelled on a path of enlightenment and, after many surreal setbacks, finally back into the waiting arms of his family: young son Alejandrito (Jeremías Herskovits) and wife Sara (played by Chilean opera soprano Pamela Flores, who sings all of her lines).

The Dance of Reality (2013)

Now, Jodorowsky could have portrayed his dad as a truly repulsive character, but instead gives him humanity – he’s both comical and sympathetic, and Brontis plays the granddad he never knew superbly. Jamie’s adventures – which sees him being rejected by his anti-Semitic peers, cast out of a shanty-town after the death of the hunchback dwarf who rescues him from the streets, and being tortured by the secret police – all lead to his rebirth (just like Jodorowsky’s gunfighter El Topo, the thief in The Holy Mountain and Fenix in Santa Sangre). It also serves to help Jodorowsky heal his own wounds in the process.

The Dance of Reality (2013)

Jodorowsky’s films are always loaded with symbols, requiring multiple viewing to catch them all, and his latest opus is no exception – with death (both the mortality and metaphysical kind) being key. One scene that sent a shiver down my spine and still haunts me even now is when Jodorowsky steps into the action to stop his younger self from committing suicide. It certainly struck an unconscious nerve within me (or was it a memory), and thus proof positive of the transformative power of Jodorowsky’s cinema. A sequel, Poesia Sin Fin (Endless Poetry), which follows the artist’s quest for inner truth, is currently in production. I can’t wait.

The Dance of Reality (aka La danza de la realidad) premieres on Film4 at 1am on Tuesday 19 January 2017, and is also available on Blu-ray from Artificial Eye in the UK

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About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on November 26, 2015, in Avant Garde, Must-See, World Cinema and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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