Ritual – Una storia psicomagica [aka. Ritual: A Psychomagic Story] (2013)
A Giulia Brazzale and Luca Immesi Film
I borrowed this film from Lane Cove library two weeks ago because it had a cover and a title that intrigued me. Potentially, it might be a little bit scary, and I’m interested in films which explore the dark side of the human brain. I had read nothing about it. I knew nothing about the filmmakers or the story. It was an impulse.
What I discovered was this:
It is a film that is a mixture of beautiful images, terrible sadness, physical abuse, sexual violence, and the suggestion of a world in which witch doctors may have more answers than ordinary doctors.
It is a mixture of two favourite films of mine, both of which are mentioned in the subtitle: Psycho (1960) and Magic (1978). Psycho is a horror film about a mentally ill man who kills someone who stays in his motel. The other, Magic, is of a ventriloquist whose dummy develops a mind of its own and takes over the mind of its master. They are both stories realised by people with vivid, creative, imaginations. There is nothing more distressing in the concept than the fact it reveals the protagonist’s mind is unbalanced or deranged, which is what authors and artists have been creating and debating for hundreds of years.
As I wrote my review of the film I started to ask myself whether this is a film to recommend others to see? There’s an artistic-appreciation of the film and then there’s a more personal view of the film. It sits somewhere between Dracula and Rosemary’s Baby. Between Pulp Fiction and Salo: the last 120 Days of Sodom. As I was about to publish my observations about the film I felt compelled to write a warning to those who may not need to see something that is really well-done but not good for their mind. It is as follows:
Spoiler warning: this film deals in a subject matter of magic which is not of this world, as applied to human psychology and mentally disturbed minds.
It is true that the arts can feature or be attuned to disturbing aspects of mythology which are outside of our day to day understanding of this side of life which most of us accept as reality. This representation may be well done but not particularly harmful to those who watch it. Other films, like Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, 8mm, Eyes Wide Shut and Salo, represent possible human behaviour, which stems from sick minds and minds that are in partnership with the devil and demons. (Hitler’s work sits somewhere in between the two.) A work of art is a work of art and is treated as such, but not all works of art will do the mind of the recipient any good at all, and many works of art are not created by people who are fundamentally good. Nevertheless, art is separate from content, as seen most horribly through Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom which is the most disturbing film I’ve ever seen.
I don’t believe that it necessarily takes a sick mind to create a work of art that is about sick minds. But be warned – not every great film, novel, painting, picture or musical work is worth the time it takes to inhale it despite its excellence if it comes from a sick place or a sick view of the world. Nevertheless, films like The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Omen, The Rite of Spring – and thousands of other examples – are the less spiritually disturbing of these films.
I don’t think everyone needs to see Ritual: A Psychomagic Story, but it is an often brilliant film. There’s nothing too stomach-churning about it but it is very dark and it does deal with material which could be traumatic to people who are struggling with personal mental health issues. What makes it important, to a degree, is that it deals with things that are very real to a great number of people in this world.