zuhair vazir’s review published on Letterboxd:
Achtung: Mature content
With ferocious, repulsive, foul-smelling visuals of self-mutilation to a scene that not only harasses the senses but also manages to plant a seed. A seed that helps (sure) the audience get itself familiar with the grimy, high in contrast, black and white and barely watchable but equally intriguing film, in all its ingenuity and not glory. There is nothing glorious about "Begotten".
I will not delve in to the plot, not because it does not exactly fulfill my criteria of a plot for a feature length film but for the reason that I may spoil it for the hound dog.
(Book of Genesis)
For all the gold in the world, director E. Elias Merhige (Shadow of the Vampire, 2000 - what a brilliant film) does not intend for his audience to watch something they have seen before, even the graphic violence, the ferocity with which, violence is explored through the misshapen hands of some of the most preternatural and unearthly 'Other Life' (as the end credits call them).
This is overtly stylized film-making, showing random acts of dismemberment and a filthy bald creature vomiting human organs that the 'Other Life' collect impatiently; even if the body part is half stuck in the creature’s mouth. Who is this godforsaken creature, being repeatedly hit on the head with a make-shift sledgehammer by the 'Other Life' whose number keeps increasing until the ominous, unsightly and an appalling film (yet enticing, somehow) comes to an end.
Filmed in mad black and white, director E. Elias Merhige re-shot the stills from the frames of every scene with the most extreme filters to achieve the desired look. And it works, making the viewer disagree with the Spartan footage being shown on film at a very intrinsic plain of subconscious, where the visuals cannot be shrugged off easily and where the human brain will improvise to make the film look more beautiful (all in the name of 'violent art' and a ravenous desire of the very bleak kind), and the way the narrative is handled by Merhige.
Leaving his writing to the devices of a gibberish, stream of consciousness, stream of sperm, 'belly-cream pie', a convulsing humanoid who is pulled through the rotten and depressingly malevolent wastelands forever, it seems; by an extremely long umbilical cord, Merhige sets the diabolical tone of the film. This method results in first branching the viewer off completely, in so many directions (one of them being the toilet) then filling the senses with such powerful visuals that have the potential to make even the most hardened ‘extreme cinephile’ cringe with disgust and find himself wincing every five minutes; either to try and see what the treatment of film would not let you watch by the gracious use of hue and an awfully traumatizing post treatment of film by the mad scientist himself, Mr. Merhige (who also happens to have written the 'script' of the film or to miss the bits ‘unintentionally’. The film makes you lie to yourself.
This is not entertainment; you cannot consume munchies whilst watching "Begotten" (perhaps a cigarette or nine). You can't even take it for granted, no matter how tempted one is to doodle, or pluck the guitar or even sip on that shot-glass during the viewing. For if concentration is divided, so is the viewer. Not a single frame of this nightmare is to be missed, to appreciate (at the risk of sounding ostentatious) what is being shown on screen.
The film does not use dialogues; instead it is filled with sounds. The underlay of a heart-murmur on which the arrangement of further sound mixing builds; crickets rubbing their legs together, the sound of a beating heart of a fetus (most would be familiar with the sounds of an ultrasound room).
'Begotten' stuns and rapes the senses with its ferocious black and white experiment and does not become glorious, until disgust cannot be felt anymore. Deep, 'animal faith' disgust felt through some serious grotesque film making; the modus operandi for 'Mr. Nosferatu' himself.
All said and done, this viewer was confused for most of the 72 minute run time. Either that or I was deliberately trying very hard to not let the images affect or maim. It did not work and I woke up thinking about ‘Mother Earth’. Not good.
I hated it yet I would like to watch it again, the lure is such.
Plus, I bet you haven't watched a disgusting, 'Blair Witch' revealed, and a cryptic 'god' disemboweling itself with a straight razor, only to give life to 'Mother Earth', crawling out from under 'god's' mutilated cadaver and going down the rabbit hole, which I understand as being an analogy of the process of birth.
Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.