The Dance of Reality ★★★★½

The Dance of Reality is a must-see if you have ever been delighted or bewildered by any of Alejandro Jodorowsky's films. It is an autobiographical story following the filmmaker's childhood in Chile. The film reflects Jodorowsky's view that life is a dance created by our imagination. Our imagination allows us to raise our consciousness.

The Dance of Reality is a poetic, reflective film that reveals so much about Jodorowsky and helps to explain his films. I came away from the film with a deeper appreciation and respect for the filmmaker and his work. (I have only seen El Topo and Santa Sangre. Holy Mountain is on my watchlist.)

The characters of Jodorowsky's youth that appear in The Dance of Reality are obvious inspirations for the characters in his other films. In the film's final scene, Jodorowsky, who serves as a narrator throughout the film, stands among cardboard cutouts of the characters in the films. It is as if he were saying, "These people fed my imagination. These people inspired my stories. They are part of me." Being introduced to the "real-life" inspirations for his film characters in The Dance of Reality had a normalizing effect; that is, after seeing The Dance of Reality, I feel that Jodorowsky's bizarre characters and surreal film elements are not so bizarre or surreal any more. It is easy to understand how the colorful people and surroundings of Jodorowsky's youth led him to tell the kind of stories he has told in his films and influenced his filmmaking aesthetic. Speaking of aesthetic, Jodoworsky heavily borrows from Fellini's Amarcord in this film.

The Dance of Reality contains the absurd elements that you would expect to find in a Jodorowsky film. Instead of speaking, Pamela Flores, the actress who portrays his mother, sings all of her dialogue operatically. There are characters who have physical deformities, physical objects with false sound, and mystic elements within the film. The absurd elements are minimal compared to those in his other films. In fact, The Dance of Reality is almost a normal film—whatever that is. The film contains scenes that might offend some because they depict torture and show graphic nudity (umm, haven't we all played games with our naked mother?). I didn't find them to be objectionable. I've seen a lot worse in films.

The story first focuses on young Alejandro, but it soon shifts to tell the story of his father Jaime (portrayed by Brontis Jodoworsky, the filmmaker's son). It is clear through this film that Jodoworsky credits his father as the most influential person in his life. Jodoworsky details Jaime's struggles with his male identity, his political and religious beliefs, and his place in the world. It is a strong story that only weakens when Jaime leaves his family and Jodoworsky places him in another, less-interesting storyline involving his wanting to assassinate Chile's president. But the story comes full circle when Jaime returns home and is reunited with his wife and son. Jaime's experiences transform him from an aggressive and angry tyrant to a gentle, accepting man who loves his family.

In the end, The Dance of Reality explains that Alejandro Jodoworksy is a product of his parents, who had opposing views on religion, and a product of his circus-like environment. I believe the film will be best appreciated by an older audience who can relate and reflect on life along with Jodoworsky.

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