Directed By: John Boorman
Written By: John Boorman
Produced By: John Boorman
Cast: Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, Sara Kestelman
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 105 minutes
Review Date: October 22, 2010
There is much to say about a film like Zardoz. It is less a plot driven narrative and more an homage to likes of Sergei Eisenstein and his seminal method of dialectical montages, the pairing of two seemingly disparate images into one. In the case of this film, it’s Sean Connery standing in red latex underwear and suspenders pointing a gun at the camera, followed by perplexing imagery of a stone head proclaiming violence and vomiting guns. Yes, I am dead serious.
The year is 2200 and the world (i.e., a very conventional looking Ireland) is split into two clans: The “Brutals” to which Zed (Sean Connery) belongs, and the religiously ambivalent “Immortals.” Zed travels in the stone head named Zardoz to the Vortex, which is the home to the “Immortals.” Upon Zed’s arrival, the immortals choose not to kill Zed but instead study him. He has no choice but to oblige. It’s all good for us though, because we get to see Mr. Bond himself engage in a cornucopia of experiments, one of which involves him wearing a wedding gown. Another, maintaining an erection. The list goes on in this scientific porno.
It goes without saying that this is a high-concept film, albeit an incredibly misguided one. These “immortals,” so bored with the drone of their monotonous lifestyles, have become inoculated to the world around them and are nearly unresponsive. Is this a meditation on society at the time this was filmed (1970’s), the “Immortals” merely doppelgangers for hippies that were revolutionizing the meanings of abstract thought and ambivalence? We never truly know, as this passion project spends too much time reveling in its own glory to approach such issues.
There are some other interesting elements thrown into this gruel as well, such as the omnipotent computer made out of diamonds and naked people. Should technologies such as these (which are now current in all sense of the word) be made, and if so, to what avail? Again, these are questions that the movie either indirectly stipulates or chooses not to answer. Instead, we are left with this pretentious mess of big, outlandish sets, dated yet commendable effects, and naked women on horseback. The cinematography is pristine, however, and this film boasts a few grand vistas of Ireland’s saturated landscape.
This film just begs to be seen by that certain someone, but that person isn’t me. Think of it as the eclecticism of Blade Runner mixed with the audacity of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the production value of Krull, and the unintentional humor of the Conan the Barbarian films. It’s so absurd that it’s worth a viewing just to see Sean Connery walk around in his underwear.
As they say in the film, “The penis is Evil, the gun is good.” Is this high-minded genius or pure, unadulterated nonsense? You’re in for a good laugh if you feel the need to find out.
Kyle Kogan is a film critic living in Chicago.