The Devils (1971) Ken Russell

 The Devils (1971)
Genre: Drama | History | Horror | Shocking | Surreal
Country: UK | Director: Ken Russel
Language: English | Subtitles: English (.srt file)
Aspect ratio: Cinemascope 2.35:1 | Length: 108mn
Dvdrip H264 Mkv - 720x304 - 25fps - 1.78gb

Includes Audio commentary with Ken Russell, Mark Kermode,
Michael Bradsell and Paul Joyce
(second audio track)

Cardinal Richelieu and his power-hungry entourage seek to take control of seventeenth-century France, but need to destroy Father Grandier - the priest who runs the fortified town that prevents them from exerting total control. So they seek to destroy him by setting him up as a warlock in control of a devil-possessed nunnery, the mother superior of which is sexually obsessed by him. A mad witch-hunter is brought in to gather evidence against the priest, ready for the big trial.

After viewing the very first shot of the film, it should come as no surprise to learn that many critics questioned Ken Russell's sanity when 'The Devils' was released in 1971. The text at the very beginning tells us that "this film is based on historical fact", followed by a sequence portraying King Louis XIII as a transvestite sodomite performing a rendition of the Birth of Venus to an audience consisting of Cardinal Richilieu and hordes of homosexuals in drag. Needless to say, most critics did not take kindly to the joke.

Yet Russell's irreverent concoction of religious and political corruption in 17th Century France is what makes his interpretation of history so unique and interesting. Inspired by Aldous Huxley's anachronistic descriptions in his novel 'The Devils of Loudun', Russell takes it to the next level. The sets, the characters, and much of the dialog are seemingly anachronistic. But here is where the concept of historiography justifies Russell eccentricities. 'The Devils' is based on historical ideas, not on historical accuracy.

Hollywood has shown us time and again that history cannot be duplicated on screen. Take a film like 'Braveheart' for example. It presents itself as a true vision of 13th Century Scottish rebellion, right down to the finely knitted kilts. Audience members feel like they have been transported back in time, when in actuality the film has been cited repeatedly as one of the most historically inaccurate films of all time. In 'The Devils' Ken Russell wisely avoids even attempting to show what 17th Century France might have looked like, relying instead on futuristic sets and bizarre costumes to evoke the historical France thematically. In short, Mel Gibson's concoction is just as phony as Russell's.

One of the historical aspects in Aldous Huxley's book that Ken Russell successfully evokes (though he does not explain) is the level of intoxicants that people consumed on a daily basis in the Middles Ages and Early Renaissance. The hallucinatory look and feel of the film, coupled with fevered dream sequences, expand on the hysteria that was all too common among the uneducated provincials of that time. This is not the age of Romance, but the age of the corrupt unification of church and state exercising its power upon an apathetic public. The parallels are stunning, as the film is more relevant today than when it was released 36 years ago.

Russell makes the correct assumption that the events which occurred in Loudun are so absurd that to portray them reverently would be missing the point. The ironic tone of the film transcends history. He almost seems to be saying, "Can you believe that this actually happened?" There is also a brilliant use of foreshadowing early in the film in a dream sequence portraying a laughing, leering mob watching Christ being crucified, which will mirror the citizens of Loudun later in the film.

And in all of this, Oliver Reed gives the best performance of his career as the doomed priest who sacrifices himself for his city and his will to do what is right in the face of imminent pain and death.
The Devils (1971)

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1 Response to "The Devils (1971) Ken Russell"

  1. Unknown says:

    Request: have you the movie :"Women in love"? Thanks

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