(W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism)
Director: Dusan Makavejev
Production: Neoplanta Film and Telepool; color, 35mm. Released 1971.
Screenplay: Dusan Makavejev; photography: Pega Popovic and Aleksander Perkovíc.
Cast: Milena Dravíc ( Milena ); Jagoder Kaloper ( Jagoder ); Zoran Radmilovíc ( Radmilovíc ); Vica Vidovic ( Vladimir Ilyich ); Miodrag Andríc ( Soldier ); Tuli Kupferberg ( Guerilla soldier in New York City ); Jackie Curtis; Betty Dodson; Nancy Godfrey.
Awards: Luis Buñuel Prize, Cannes Film Festival, 1971.
Makavejev, Dusan, W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism. A Cinematic Testament to the Life and Teachings of Wilhelm Reich , New York, 1972.
Taylor, John, Directors and Directions , New York, 1975.
Callow, Simon, Shooting the Actor, Or, The Choreography of Confusion , with Dusan Makavejev, London, 1990, 1991.
Bienstock, David, "Why Did He Do That to Wm. Reich?," in New York Times , 7 November 1971.
Sarris, Andrew, Village Voice (New York), 11 November 1971.
MacBean, J. R., and E. Callenbach, "Fight Power with Spontaneity and Humor: An Interview with Dusan Makavejev," in Film Quarterly (Berkeley), Winter 1971–72.
Mellen, Joan, in Cineaste (New York), Winter 1971–72.
Tirnanic, B., in Ekran (Ljubljana), no. 92–93, 1972.
Weightman, J., in Ekran (Ljubljana), no. 94–95, 1972.
MacBean, J. R., "Sex Politics: Wilhelm Reich, World Revolution, and Makavejev's WR ," in Film Quarterly , (Berkeley), Spring 1972.
Gow, Gordon, in Films and Filming (London), May 1972.
Weiner, B., in Take One (Montreal), June 1972.
Bonitzer, P., in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), July-August 1972.
Becker, L., in Film Journal (New York), September 1972.
Braucourt, G., "Entretien avec Dusan Makavejev," in Ecran (Paris), September-October 1972.
Cervoni, A., "Entretien avec Dusan Makavejev," in Cinéma (Paris), September-October 1972.
Lefèvre, Raymond, "Une Affaire du coeur," in Cinéma (Paris), September-October 1972.
Tournes, A., "Deux cinéastes yougoslaves," in Jeune Cinéma (Paris), September-October 1972.
Schiller, H., in Filmrutan (Stockholm), no. 3, 1973.
Webster, O., "The Success and Failure of WR ," in Lumière (Melbourne), May 1973.
Thomsen, C. B., "Let's Put Life Back in Political Life: An Interview with Dusan Makavejev," in Cineaste (New York), no. 2, 1974.
Walsh, M., in Monogram (London), no. 5, 1974.
Santamaria, J. V. G., in Contracampo (Madrid), June-July 1981.
"Yugoslavia's Makavejev: Distilling Entertainment from Politics," in World Press Review , vol. 29, June 1982.
Young, Deborah, "Yugoslavian Director Makavejev Says His Pix 'American in Feel,"' in Variety (New York), vol. 332, no. 13, 19 October 1988.
" W.R.: Misterije Organizma Section" in Filmkultura (Budapest), no. 2, 1990.
Pitman, Randy, in Library Journal , vol. 115, no. 7, 15 April 1990.
Kenny, Glenn, in Video Review , vol. 11, no. 1, April 1990.
Hoberman, J., "Socialist Realism: From Stalin to Sots," in Artforum , vol. 32, November 1993.
Cernenko, Miron, " Big Mak : ili tragedija s celoveceskin licom," in Iskusstvo Kino (Moscow), no. 1, January 1994.
Hoberman, J., "Big Mak Attack," in Village Voice (New York), vol. 40, 4 April 1995.
* * *
Dusan Makavejev's W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism opens with the statement; "This film is in part a personal response to the life and teachings of Dr. Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957)." Part documentary, part narrative fiction, part examination of contemporary American sexual mores, and part condemnation of the legacy of Stalin in the Eastern Block, W.R. uses the career of Wilhelm Reich as a springboard from which to tackle the still burning issue of the relationship of political oppression to sexual repression.
Both a colleague of Sigmund Freud and a member of the German Communist Party in the 1920s, Reich was one of the first psychoanalysts to attempt to show the importance of the relationship between the individual psyche and the material relations of production. For Reich, sexual repression was one of the by-products of class oppression, sexual liberation one of the goals of a revolutionary struggle. After organizing a group called SEXPOL to further develop his ideas of radical psychotherapy, Reich was thrown out of the Communist Party for advocating the ideas of Freud and kicked out of German psychoanalytic circles for being a Marxist. Fleeing Hitler, Reich immigrated to the United States in 1934; he set up a clinic in a small town in Maine. In 1956, he was arrested for quackery, his books burned; he died in a federal prison in 1957.
After moving to the United States, Reich renounced his earlier Marxist theories and often boasted of voting for Eisenhower. Interestingly, in W.R. , Makavejev focuses on this Reich—the later, American Reich—and on the development of his therapy techniques in the United States and Britain (outside a socialist context). Most of the first part of the film examines this Reich—through interviews with his relatives, his American neighbours, his students, even his barber— and the state of American sexual mores after Reich, but before the Sexual Revolution. An editor of Screw magazine conducts business in the buff and then has his penis plastercasted. Jackie Curtis discusses her sex change and the romantic difficulties it created as Pepsi ads blare over the radio. Tuli Kupferberg engages in guerilla street theater, roaming New York and fondling his toy M-16 like a giant phallus. New York shows signs of sexual emancipation, but it is commercialized. It supports rather than contradicts American capitalism and militarism; it bears no resemblance to Reich's notion of "worker democracy."
The last half of W.R. , a fictional allegory, takes place in Yugoslavia—a country which is presented as a land caught between Stalin and the U.S. dollar, where "Marx Factor" rules. A young worker, Milena, calls for the end of sexual repression in post-revolutionary Yugoslav society. However, after breaking off her relationship with the worker next door, Milena can only make up sermons on the value of free love, while her roommate puts the theory into practice by exuberantly screwing a member of the army home on leave. At a performance of the Soviet Ice Capades, Milena sees and falls in love with Vladimir Ilyich, a handsome young skating star. (Of course, this is a self-conscious reference to Lenin, whose real name was Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. In the film, Vladimir Ilyich even recites a number of Lenin's more famous sayings verbatim.) Milena seduces Vladimir Ilyich, but unable to deal with the liberating force of his orgasm, Vladimir Ilyich goes mad and decapitates Milena with his iceskate. In the morgue, Milena's severed head analyzes the problem: "Vladimir is a man of noble impetuousness, a man of high ambition, of immense energy. He's romantic, ascetic, a genuine Red Fascist Comrades! Even now I'm not ashamed of my Communist past!" The film ends with a photograph of Reich's smiling face.
W.R. was the last film Makavejev made in Yugoslavia. After it was banned there, Makavejev was effectively excluded from the Yugoslav film industry. Also, although W.R. won the Luis Buñuel prize at Cannes in 1971, the film never received a large theatrical release in the United States, its distribution limited in some areas to pornography cinemas where it was billed as a "sex film."