Written and directed by Simon Pummell
Bodysong is not a film to be passively watched, but is instead a piece of art that tries to actively engage. The director wants the audience to be mindful of the images on screen in the hopes that each viewer will create an individual and unique experience as he reflects on the film. Bodysong tells the story of a human being’s life by breaking it down into six basic elements: birth, growth, sex, violence, death, and dreams. These key points show the universality of life regardless of nationality, ethnicity or creed.
The film is a celluloid collage of edited archival films that have been recorded from all over the world since the medium was first invented. The picture quality of the images isn’t always great, which is understandable considering the age of some of the footage. Most of the subjects are anonymous participants, but the film also uses iconic images. We see Josephine Baker dance, Jackson Pollack paint and Helen Keller speak. There’s famous news footage, such as the Vietcong officer who was shot in the head by General Loan in the middle of a Saigon street during the Vietnam War and the Chinese man holding the white flag in Tiananmen Square, attempting to block a tank. The stories about every shot can be learned through the website that was created in conjunction with the film.
Bodysong starts at the cellular level. We see the building blocks of life as they work their way from egg to child. Women from different cultures give birth in different settings, such as hospitals, homes and even pools of water. This segment goes on way too long as the events and visuals are repeated over and over. The ideas are conveyed rather quickly, so the repetition becomes relentless and I found myself losing interest.
Children grow into young adults. They get involved in courtships that are consummated. This segment included pornographic images of intercourse and oral sex. I was startled, yet not offended. At first, I found them gratuitous. They seem to call attention to themselves and I was taken out of the moment. Thinking about the film days later, I realized that it was not the presentation of the images, but my reaction to them, that caused my disconnection. Images of sexual acts certainly belong in a segment about sex. They are presented very matter-of-factly and not in a salaciousness manner. No more time is given to the sexual scenes than to any other events that comprise a person’s life, so any issues I had were my own.