Communion

Tagged: Film

Film (1989). Pheasantry Films in association with Allied Vision, The Picture Property Company. Coproduced by Philippe Mora, Whitley Strieber and Dan Allingham. Directed by Mora. Written by Strieber based on his own book Communion: A True Story (1987). Cast includes Joel Carlson, Lindsay Crouse, Terri Hanauer, Andreas Katsulas, Frances Sternhagen and Christopher Walken. 101 minutes. Colour.

This interesting film which tells of the abduction by Aliens of fantasy writer Whitley Strieber has little of the documentary about it, and while based on a book that purported to be factual, is only distinguishable from science fiction in one obvious respect. Although we actually witness the alien abduction, at first in jerky neurotic flashbacks, later as a more continuous narrative, the film always allows, even encourages, an alternative reading. This is that fantasist Strieber, suffering from writer's block, and shown in the film to behave in an increasingly unstable manner, has experienced a mental breakdown with a component of paranoid hallucination. (Another theoretical alternative scenario, that Strieber invented the whole story in a cynical and successful attempt to break into the best-seller market, is not considered.) Nonetheless, the dual reading offered gives the film an edgy, captivating quality, much assisted by the brio of Mora's direction and a ruthlessly committed performance from Walken, who in some films appears to drift through his roles. Mora (from an Australian family much involved with art) sets almost every scene with ambiguous paintings and sculptures in the background, and this too adds to the teasing (documentary fact or postmodernist fiction?) quality of the film. The film's most celebratedly surreal scene is that in which Strieber during an examination by aliens is sodomized by something resembling a petrol pump. But the aliens themselves are disappointing, some resembling blue orcs, some resembling the big-eyed, etiolated, elf-like figures we originally saw in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), and in both incarnations filmic stereotypes. (Though if the paranoid reading is correct, then the aliens indeed "should" be stereotypes.) [PN]

see also: UFOs for a discussion of various abducted-by-flying-saucer books and films.

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