A great introduction to Ken Russell's uncut The Devils at the BFI last night by film critic Mark Kermode, and what a movie! Strangely enough, I felt kind of spiritually lifted coming out of the cinema. Earlier I had bought two glasses of red wine at the bar and poured both into the one glass, to enjoy the film with. When I came out, I felt like I had committed the sin of greed and needed some obscene penance.
There's no doubt there's a definite element of exploitation involved in this movie (with imagery that provokes and shocks) but you almost sense Ken feels bad about it - the sinner and the sin. The imagery of Oliver Reed out in the beautifully shot wilderness contrasted with the explicit devils making merry, entirely justifies any on-screen controversy.
It's a strangely and serenely personal and spiritual movie, the political side worthy and real, if not so important - I wonder - to Ken, as the journey of self. Like those in the church - there's a fine line between religious devotion and temptation of (that most wondrous of beasts) the flesh. It's not that dissimilar for film directors either.
Most of all, I felt that Oliver Reed really understood the poignancy of the script; the actions of his character - the lifeline he, as an actor (with his own real-life demons) is being given. Could his life could have changed because of this one role, like an exorcism of his own soul? It didn't. But in his eyes, in those close-ups of such haunted eyes staring grimly back at the camera lens with renewed conviction and courage - you feel it just might have.
words: mark gordon palmer
REVIEW first published at Seat at the Back blog: December 2011