Eye For Film >> Movies >> School Of The Holy Beast (1974) Film Review
School Of The Holy Beast
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
This review is unfair. Even the star rating should not be respected. The DVD, sent to critics, had French subtitles that didn't work and, since Japanese is double Dutch to me, I viewed the film on its cinematic merits, attempting to understand the story as I went along.
A thoroughly modern girl, living a sophisticated lifestyle in Tokyo, with a cool boyfriend, becomes a novice in a nunnery, full of surprisingly young nuns, way out in the sticks, to "investigate the mysterious death of her mother."
The film is artistically shot and concerns itself with sadomasochism, the impact of which is weakened by unconvincing acting and stagy settings. Whips appear to be the weapon of choice, whether applied by older nuns with faces like closed fists - the cinematographer takes infinite care to convey the impression of lashes snaking across soft pert breasts - or during punishment contests, in which pretty novices whip each other until the ketchup comes, stripped, naturally, to the waist.
Watching and yet not understanding is an experience in lateral moviegoing. There are static scenes between two people, garbed in nunnish attire, who converse/argue/talk and yet never move, like they have been glued to the flagstones. Starved of discourse, these are long and boring.
Elsewhere, every vice and sensual pleasure, from murder, torture, rape, masturbation and lesbian lovemaking is explored/exploited. A high priest (archbishop?), who resembles Rasputin, turns up and, between pious ceremonies, has his holy way with the most nubile virgin.
Suddenly, almost as an aside, like in Shakespeare when clowns are wheeled on to ease the tension, a farcical sequence is introduced, involving the thoroughly modern girl's cool boyfriend and his idiot friend, who climb over the wall one night, dressed as novices - where did they find the gear? In a fancy dress shop? - and have sex with a sleeping nun who has been getting hot and bothered over confiscated pornographic photographs, so that she will have the experience of the real thing. By the look on her face, she appreciated the intrusion.
Devoid of the spoken word, which might have disguised the bleeding (literally) obvious, the film looks like an excuse to give the S & M crowd a Christmas prezzie, while exposing the hypocrisy of western religion. The nuns don't have shaved heads, which adds to their erotic appeal during scrum downs, as does slow motion in scenes of flagellation.
Is the mystery of the dead mother solved? I think so. I blame Rasputin.Reviewed on: 02 Feb 2005
If you like this, try:Viridiana