Awakening Of The Beast (1970)

Awakening of the Beast (film) poster.jpg

Jose Mojica Marins’ Awakening Of The Beast is unlike any other film that he has made during his career in cinema. Whereas his previous cult classic films such as This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse and At Midnight I Will Take Your Soul are gothic horror films, Awakening Of The Beast is a pure exploitation flick: a sleazy Brazilian trash film sporting a plot that focuses on Brazil’s drug problem, linking drug use to mental suggestibility and deviant behavior. In an odd twist, the first part of the story stars Jose Mojica Marins as himself, not Coffin Joe, speaking with a group of professors about case studies where drug use has lead to perversion, violence and death. The film tries to take a moral ground on the topic of drugs, but I feel that any message the film tried to show is unclear and lost because of Jose Mojica Marins’ self-congratulatory sequences spread throughout the film. At some parts, it feels like Jose Mojica Marins made this film just to pump his own ego, especially during the second half of the film where his alter-ego ‘Coffin Joe’ makes a bold appearance.

The first thing I noticed about the film wasn’t how explicit the scenes of drug use were, which are incredibly realistic, but how perverted the film is overall. Naked women and sexually deviant sequences are a feature attraction of Awakening Of The Beast, and are more memorable than any scene of gore or drug use. That said though, the scenes can’t really be defined as ‘erotic’: any scene that includes nudity or sexual behaviour usually invokes an atmosphere of comedy, or horror, that eradicates any feelings of eroticism from the scenes entirely. This may be because the film was trying to make a statement about attempts at sexual behavior whilst intoxicated, but the film doesn’t state that outright, so it’s really up to a viewer’s own interpretation over what message the eroticized scenes are trying to relay.

The film also has a very strange cinematic flow. Awakening Of The Beast moves very slowly, trying to be artistic with cinematography, which gives the film a very traditional ‘art-house’ style to it. It’s very evident that Jose Mojica Marins was trying to develop his artistic skills with this film, instead of making a traditional Brazilian exploitation film. This is clear in the second half of the movie, which is a surreal treat with incredibly bizarre sequences set inside incredibly odd set-pieces. In these scenes, Coffin Joe returns (however, this film isn’t canonical with any other Coffin Joe film) as a demented hallucination to torture or save the characters trapped within his world. Coffin Joe’s intentions are incredibly mixed in this film, but that’s the entire point of the cameo: it’s not about how the character is actually portrayed, but how different people view the character of Coffin Joe; which is a clear metaphor for the Brazilian public’s opinions on the character of Coffin Joe at the time.

Awakening Of The Beast is more thought provoking than the other films of Mojica’s career, but I feel that Awakening Of The Beast loses a lot of it’s intentions through the movie’s focus on perverted sequences, or sequences where Mojica decides to stroke his own ego. Since the release of Awakening Of The Beast, many films have been released which would provide a better discussion about drug use; some films even discussing the link between drugs and perverted behavior. Films such as Trainspotting or Requiem For A Dream explore these themes much better than Jose Mojica Marins ever could. As a result, Awakening Of The Beast is incredibly dated, and remains a curio of 1970’s cinema that, in my opinion, doesn’t hold up as well as some of Mojica’s other films, despite the fact that Awakening Of the Beast has garnered the reputation of one of Mojica’s best films.

I would recommend Awakening Of The Beast on the basis that whoever watched the film was interested in surreal film-making, or artistically themed sexual sequences, as Awakening Of the Beast doesn’t have anything else to offer as a film. It doesn’t really say anything that hasn’t been said in other films that tackle drugs and their effect on society. See, the problem with tackling a contemporary issue in film head-on, is that it’s easy for the film to become irrelevant if new information is released about that particular issue, such as issues of drugs, political upheaval or disease. It is more beneficial to tackle serious subjects through metaphorical storytelling instead of directly addressing the issue, that way, a film can become remembered throughout the years because of how it portrays serious subjects, instead of having the movie feel like a dated remnant of times past.

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