Schizopolis- Film Review
Schizopolis, directed by Steven Soderbergh left me bursting out in an uncomfortable laughter at the end of the film. Although Soderbergh himself warns the audience at the beginning of the film that “you will need to see the picture again and again until you understand everything”, I had no idea what I was in for. The film is divided into three parts and each part seems to be told from a different perspective. The first is told from Fletcher Munson’s perspective who assumes the role of a corporate American male whose home-life is falling apart due to the stress of work and a feeling of boredom towards the self-centered, mundane world in which he lives. During part two, Fletcher seemingly transcends into another body and the story is seen from a new character’s perspective, a character that is an upbeat dentist named Dr. Korchek. At this point, Fletcher (who is now Dr.Korchek) realizes that he is having an affair with Mrs.Munson (his wife). Finally, during the last section of the film, Fletcher returns to his original body and the story now told from Mrs. Munson’s perspective. The film replays certain scenes from her eyes revealing that both Fletcher and Dr.Korchek are speaking an entirely different language to her.
Schizopolis presents the audience with a disjunctive narrative and scattered plot, but also provokes a lot of thought. It is obvious that the film contains many underlying messages about the world in which we live and how our lives are influenced by outside forces. The non-linear plot is important for a film such as this because the abrupt cuts between scenes and the lack of explanation about how the new scene came about demands the attention and participation of viewers which has always been a popular trend in Independent cinema. Soderbergh appears to be doing everything he can to invoke a variety of confusing emotions in his audience while engaging them in this eye-opening film.
An interesting character in Schizopolis is the character of Elmo. Elmo is an exterminator who goes from house to house killing bugs, seducing women, and speaks in a bizarre manner. Elmo played a very important role in the film as a representation of what often occurs in the independent film world. While playing this role of the exterminator, Elmo is being followed by this couple who later come to symbolize big Hollywood producers. The couple confronts Elmo and offers him a large amount of money to leave what he’s currently doing and work for them. Elmo agrees and goes on to make action based films which can be seen as stereotypically Hollywood films. Eventually he becomes fed up with a lack of control over his performances and demands some self-expression. The entire plot development of Elmo’s character is a great allusion to how Hollywood often seduces Independent film makers with their big names and promise of money and it often results in a repression of the Independent film-makers sense of creativity and self-expression.
Stylistically, the film achieved a schizophrenic-like plot with its disjunctive narrative and creative camerawork. The immediate address of the audience at the beginning of the film served as an indicator that this is a film that requires the audience to be engaged and there are many reminders of this throughout the film as different characters directly address the camera. Overall, Schizopolis possessed a strong sense of authorship that seemingly reflected Soderbergh’s view of the world. It is certainly necessary to watch this film again for better understanding of everything that Soderbergh is trying to communicate, but I really enjoyed his distorted ways of self-expression and his fearlessness in portraying the world in such a harsh light.