Blu-ray: Cosmos (2015)
Cosmos, directed by the late Andrzej Zulawski, tells the story of two young men; Witold (Johnathan Genet) and Fuchs (Johan Libereau) who arrive for a few days away at a family run guest house in a rural area of France. Witold has just failed his law exams and Fuchs has just quit his job at a fashion company so they want a few days of rest and relaxation, however they do not find the peace they were seeking.
As they arrive they encounter sinister and unsettling occurrences. A small bird is found hanging from a noose outside the guest house. Bugs crawl over the food laid out for the boys on the table. A cat is found hanged. Stains appear on the walls, and the erratic, unstable behaviour of the owner Madame Woytis (Sabine Azema) with her family who scream and shout at each other but do not leave their strange and repulsive life. Witold while trying to write a masterpiece, starts to struggle to keep his sanity in the apparent madness around him, especially when Madam Woytis daughter Lena (Victoria Guerra) is around with the most sensual, red lips. Add to this the maid Catherette (Clementine Pons), whose cleft lip fills the screen each time she enters it. The erratic, confusing and strange world the boys have entered is a far cry from the peaceful sanctuary they were seeking. Will they survive this surreal, whodunnit world?
I found this film completely confusing and at other times stunningly beautiful. Told through the eyes of Witold who appears to lose control of all reality whenever Lena is around, it is almost as if you are on an absinthe trip as the camera shakes and contorts all around him. Fuchs disappears on many occasions throughout the film and reappears with cuts or bruises. One presumes that he has been away making his own entertainment, however his absence causes Witold to sink lower into his own instability.
Genet plays a wonderful deranged looking, wide eyed Witold who almost shows his perverted thoughts in his body language when on screen with Lena. It is almost uncomfortable to watch. Azema cleverly plays the role of madness with her wild red hair and quite outlandish clothes which adds to the confusing unstable relationship she has with her family. The sexual and almost perverted scenes between Guerra and Pons portraying the perfect lips and distorted lips play with your mind. As a viewer you cannot help but be drawn to the distortion. It is as if Zulawski has purposely put the beauty with the beast. Lena’s husband and a fellow guest add to the conundrum of strange.
Filmed only on a small number of locations, Cosmos does not deliver on the scenery front. There are no visual beauties to behold or dramatic landscapes, however the colour dimensions do stand out. Symbolism is rife throughout the film, such as a ladder which encapsulates the desire to escape this nightmarish world, however the rest I did miss during watching as my attention to detail had switched off due to confusion and trying to decide ‘what the hell is going on!!!’.
Zulawski was a Polish director who sadly died earlier this year after a battle with cancer. He was well known for pushing the boundaries and filming the absurd, the nightmarish, and for depicting the extremes of human behaviour. In fact one of his films; The Devil, was banned due to its extreme rape and torture scenes. Cosmos was his 13th feature and his first in 15 years.
I cannot say I enjoyed this film and at times I was bored. I found it hard to relate to or have any empathy with the characters, however I can appreciate the genius and the eccentric directing eye of Zulawski. His aim was to portray an almost madness and absurdity about humanity and the universe, and in this film I think he achieved it.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
- High Definition digital transfer of the film supervised by Andrzej Żuławski
- New subtitle translation approved by Żuławski
- Hanging Sparrows: A retrospective making of interview featurette including cast (Jonathan Genet, Victoria Guerra, Jean-Francois Balmer, Clementine Pons), crew (cinematographer Andre Szankowski and others) and archive footage of director Andrzej Zulawski
- A Brief History of Gombrowicz – An interview with Rita Gombrowicz and on the life and work of Witold Gombrowicz
- Bleurgh – Daniel Bird on the films of Andrzej Zulawski and adapting Cosmos into English
- Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options
- First pressing only: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film
Review by Kerry Waters from a disc kindly supplied by Arrow Films.