Thursday, August 27, 2015

This Goddess of Love is Borne Below: A Film Review

*full disclosure: an online screener of this film was provided by Dalia Films Production.

Tagline: "Be careful who you get close to."

Director: Jon Knautz.

Writers: Alexis Kendra and Jon Knautz.

Cast: Alexis Kendra, Woody Naismith, Elizabeth Sandy and Monda Scott.

Goddess of Love is a bit of misnomer. The film's protagonist, Venus (Alexis Kendra), is more of a black widow or a female preying mantis. She bites the heads off of those she loves, figuratively. This film, from Canadian director Jon Knautz (The Shrine), is a very fascinating look at a delusional character. She appears normal and average at first, but her mask comes off at a prominent transition point. Here, the film changes from an erotic thriller into more of a psychological one. The transition is jarring and from here on out the film is a bumpy ride. The steep ups and downs come from the protagonist, whose own perceptions cannot be trusted. The outcome is an unpredictable story, which is thoroughly affective and equally exciting.

The film begins with ordinary routines. Venus moves about her apartment, often with a glass of wine in hand. The film transitions quickly to a new setting. At a strip club, she is given some advice on how to handle the customers, before finding herself in the lap of a male client. There is an attraction with this customer and the relationship moves into a romantic realm, with speed. But, when her mask comes off, Venus reveals herself to be plagued with hallucinations and jealousy. The combination of these two internal elements create for a volatile cocktail and few will survive the explosion!

There are two prominent genres in Goddess of Love: the erotic and psychological thriller. Eros can be seen in the dark reds, which symbolize passion and love. These reds turn into something more sinister, later in the picture. Also, the film begins with a seduction. Venus is charming and attractive. Brian (Woody Naismith) is domineering and aggressive. The interactions between these two characters turns into something sexual and there are a number of sex scenes throughout the film. However, after a prominent transition point (which will be discussed below), Venus' psychological dysfunction becomes disturbingly apparent. She sees maggots in her sink, or strange characters walking down the street. It is obvious that she is becoming psychologically unhinged. And, the film studies Venus' descent into delusion. Suffering from a bi-polar condition, a broken statue is symbolic of the protagonist's damaged inner workings. The psychological tone is more dominant than the erotic one, with the initial genre only lasting late into the first act and into a few later scenes.

Venus begins to turn into a black widow during a photo shoot. Her new lover, Brian, takes her pictures with a masquerade mask. But, he asks her to remove it "let's lose the mask." After the mask falls, Venus' own psychological mask is also removed. From here on in, Venus' delusions are more strongly shown to the viewer. She sees a snake under a couch. As well, her coping methods are also shown. She reaches for a pipeful of marijuana whenever her neighbour's music grows too loud. But, the strong bass is coming from within her own mind as seen in the shaking screen. It is also at this transition point when one genre, the erotic, changes into the next, the psychological. As well, the amount of conflict increases, with Venus losing her grip on reality. She lashes out at Brian. First, she writes a note on his car, in pink lipstick. But, her actions might be more violent, than what is actually shown onscreen. This transition point, near the thirty minute mark, will signal to the viewer of what is to come.

Viewers cannot trust what Venus sees. Venus cannot even trust what she sees. Therefore, the main character is untrustworthy. Her mental illness distorts whatever she views. Entire scenes may not be real, with characters disappearing in a late sequence of scenes. When the central viewpoint is untrustworthy, events can only be seen figuratively, or on a surface level. The scenes in the final two acts are meant to show Venus' descent into delusion. But, what is delusion and what is real? Events, interactions and conflicts all become confusing. Thankfully, the writing team of: Alexis Kendra and Jon Knautz, show what is actually real, in the last few scenes. Venus' viewpoint is changed for a more rational one and the film's journey In the Mouth of Madness finally slows down. In the end, it is disconcerting to see a central character devolve in such a violent and confusing fashion.

Goddess of Love is an unpredictable ride through one person's damaged psyche. Venus is a complex and intriguing character, whose actions become more and more erratic. The film is difficult to look away from and it is thoroughly engrossing; this viewer was completely entertained. Also, film elements, from lighting to set design, are consistently top notch. This critic has very little to say negatively about the film. And, most viewers will enjoy the film's many twist and turns. Goddess of Love is not the right title for the film, but it is the starting point from which Venus descends into more and more irrational darkness.

Overall: 8 out of 10.

*there are scenes in the film in which Venus sees a vision of herself, with blood red hands. These scenes represent the guilt she feels, for a violent act. However, another scene shows Venus with a bloodied nose, in a mirror. This critic would be curious if others have a hypothesis on what this blood stands for, if anything.

**the film will have its World Premiere in London, at Film4Frightfest, this August 31st.

A fan page for the film is available here:

Goddess of Love on Facebook

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