Posted on Wednesday, March 28th, 2012 by Russ Fischer
Documentaries about film production can be very difficult resist. A film in progress — especially one with a low budget or constrained schedule — can be a pressure cooker in which problems pile up and create a living hell for all involved. There’s a lurid appeal to watching people attempt to control forces that threaten to spin wildly out of control, whether the film that results is any good or not.
The production of films like Apocalypse Now, Fitzcarraldo, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, and The Boondock Saints have all been documented in compelling documentary form. (In Hearts of Darkness, Burden of Dreams, Lost in La Mancha, and Overnight, respectively.)
It is unlikely that Jennifer Lynch‘s third film, a strange fairy tale called Hisss, will ever be held in anything close to the regard of any of the movies mentioned above. (Even the divisive Boondock Saints.) Hisss didn’t get much attention upon release, and most of the attention it did get was not positive. Now the documentary Despite the Gods seeks to chronicle the making of the film — a story shot in India, about “a snake that turns into a woman who turns into a snake.” The trailer for the doc is below, and the view it offers on the film’s production is not very pretty.
What follows is not safe for work due to language:
I was very interested in Hisss when it was first announced. I hoped that Lynch might be able to make the film work, and in the process dissipate some of the lingering stain of her first feature, Boxing Helena. This trailer is fairly heart-rending, and I can’t say I entirely trust the film based only on this footage. I wonder how the full feature really plays out, and what the intentions of director Penny Vozniak and producer Karina Astrup really were.
Despite the Gods will premiere at the Toronto festival Hot Docs, on April 28.
Jennifer Lynch, daughter of cult film auteur David Lynch, made her auspicious directorial debut in 1993 with Boxing Helena at the Sundance Film Festival. A box office disaster, the film was viciously mauled by critics and became the focus of multiple lawsuits. Fifteen years later, a recovering addict and hard-working single mother, Lynch returns to the director’s chair with an ambitious project that will test her skills and the entire crew’s sanity.
Despite the Gods brings us behind the scenes on the set of Lynch’s Bollywood/Hollywood action film about a man-eating snake goddess. Out of her depth shooting on location with an Indian crew and two top Bollywood stars, Lynch turns her production into a vehicle for her own self-actualization, paying no regard to timeline, budget or reality. As the story in front of the camera derails, the story behind the camera explodes.