Whether you love Quentin Tarantino or flat out hate him, you have to appreciate the exposure he’s brought to movies that most likely would have spent their remaining years rotting away in someone’s cellar rather than being dug out for HD transfers. I quite like Tarantino. I do find his “referencing” a little overbearing at times – especially in both the Kill Bill films, which, while I enjoy them, I consider his worst films. But his relentless tributes coaxed many to go digging through the bowels of cinema to find forgotten gems (and forgotten turds) and have given distribution companies a market for previously unimaginable releases. One such film is Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973) – a rape-revenger also known under the cool title They Call Her One Eye – the film that inspired the design of Daryl Hannah’s character in Kill Bill. Shortly after Kill Bill‘s theatrical run, this Swedish masterwork was released by the great Synapse Films in two forms: Thriller: They Call Her One Eye and the limited release of Thriller: A Cruel Picture. Thriller: They Call Her One Eye featured the most commonly seen cut; one which removes some of the film’s controversial material. Thriller: A Cruel Picture restored all of the hardcore cutaways and extended a disturbing shot of an eye, a cadaver used in place of special effects, being stabbed. Yeech. The director of Thriller, Bo Arne Vibenius, has a miniscule filmography. But after seeing Thriller, I was determined to see something else with his name attached. I came across – like many others, I’d imagine – Breaking Point – Pornografisk Thriller. Yes, another film with hardcore pornography interspersed throughout. Now that I’ve finally seen it, I can safely say that my world will never be the same…
BREAKING POINT – PORNOGRAFISK THRILLER
1975, Sweden, Bo Arne Vibenius
As you can probably tell from the clip, Breaking Point does not exist in our universe. The police refer to the killer as an “unauthorised citizen” and an expert advises women to allow themselves to be raped. After all it is “only rape” and, according to the government in Breaking Point, 89 percent of women want to be raped. The only problem Bellings has, in this twisted world, is that he’s an unauthorised murderer. It is never explicitly stated, but we can assume that Breaking Point takes place in either a near future or in the mind of Bellings. Bellings continues his path of unauthorised behaviour. He rapes more women – although they usually accept his advances (on the advice of the government?) – and causes a fiery car crash. He receives a government issued gun and shoots trees in the woods using explosive bullets. At one point, he kidnaps a child, takes her to the woods and feeds her sweets. Then he takes her home as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened. The trail of weirdness Bellings goes down eventually leads to a climactic gun battle involving terrorists. Breaking Point‘s utter absurdity ensured that I was permanently on edge throughout its running time. I could never predict where the film would take me.
Breaking Point already appears to be one long hallucinatory dream sequence, but interspersed between its fragmented scenes we have daydreams and nightmares. Bellings’s fantasies are absurd to say the least, and often involve masturbation. Here’s a good example of one of these sequences… shot in lurid pinks and yellows, Bellings is receiving a blowjob from a woman, we hear the sound of a fly buzzing, the woman stops, Bellings and the woman look around to find the fly, the fly lands on Bellings’s erect penis, Bellings flicks it off with a rubber band and laughs wildly:
I should point out that Breaking Point is not called a “pornographic thriller” for nothing. As I mentioned earlier, the film, like Thriller, contains hardcore scenes. For the most part, they are anything but sexy. They are, however, perfect within the context of the film. The sex scenes featuring the bespectacled Bellings and various women are as odd as everything else in the film. Bellings smears himself with his own semen and, after fingering women, dabs his fingers behind his ears like he was applying perfume. Often the hardcore scenes simply show Bellings masturbating. Masturbation plays a big role in Breaking Point. Without giving away too much, the film’s focus is Bellings attempting to pass time. And a lot of the time, this procrastination is masturbation. Even in a scene where Bellings gets “revenge” on a woman – a revenge that seems uncalled for – he masturbates into a cup and poisons her coffee with his semen. The sexual material in Breaking Point is ever present and weaves neatly into the film. The hardcore footage works wonders in creating a truly unnerving experience. But it is not merely the fact that we are witness to hardcore penetration that creates this experience, it is Bo Arne Vibenius’s stylised approach that gives the film its unsettling energy.
Vibenius is a talented man. Breaking Point, despite its small budget, manages to successfully take its dizzying aspirations to the screen. The film is shot with an ever-moving camera, capturing Bellings and his seemingly meaningless warpath perfectly. Vibenius edits the film with jarring speediness; splicing shots of hardcore in the middle of scenes and never allowing a scene to go on too long. The dream sequences – well, the obvious dream sequences – are infused with saturated colours and shot with strangely framed – and often awkwardly close – shots. Even outside of the confirmed daydreams, the film has an eerie quality. The sound design is perhaps the film’s greatest asset. The audio is constantly filled with reverb – some lines are even aggressively echoed. And the music score is particularly brilliant, moving from minimalistic synthesizer tracks to distorted guitar and organ songs that sound like deranged carnival music.
I can’t do Breaking Point justice in a simple review. It is genius in its maddest form. This is on a whole new level when compared to Thriller. Where Thriller was a somewhat offbeat rape-revenge film, Breaking Point is something entirely different. It’s a film that includes hardcore pornography, violence and horror, yet it is genreless. With Breaking Point, I had expected a film that would shock me. And in a way, it did. But not in the way I’d expected. For most of the film, my mouth was hanging open and my brow was furrowed. I never felt truly disgusted by Breaking Point – at times, I came close – but the entire time I felt as if I’d stepped into an alternate universe. Breaking Point goes beyond exploitation and beyond experimental film. Breaking Point – Pornografisk Thriller is Bo Arne Vibenius’s unhinged gift to the world and I thank him for it.