395. The Game of Angels – Walerian Borowczyk

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SUMMARY: A semi-abstract film, which provides a glimpse into a nightmarish factory the purpose of which is unclear.

WHY IT’S HERE: Walerian Borowczyk’s ‘The Games of Angels’ is one of the most viscerally unsettling pieces of surrealist animation I’ve ever seen. Beloved of Terry Gilliam, who rated it as one of the greatest animations of all time, ‘The Games of Angels’ is a slow moving, eleven minute glimpse inside a strange factory which seems to be processing or dissecting angels. Disembodied wings are seen oozing and faceless figures are seemingly decapitated but all this is done with the passionless indifference of a processing plant. The accompanying cacophony of organ music somehow makes the whole thing even more unsettling, its insistent blast evocative of religious corruption when paired with the theologically unsettling imagery. ‘The Game of Angels’ has been seen as a concentration camp allegory (making it remarkable trains-eye-view opening even more unsettling) and an indictment of the oppressive regimes that Borowczyk had had to endure as a Polish citizen. Only one thing is clear here; something very sinister is going on and the inability to pinpoint exactly what that is, coupled with the fact that no-one involved seems to be reacting to it in any way, makes the whole film even more eerily effective. While I don’t pretend to be able to offer any great insight into the meaning of ‘The Games of Angels’, it is undoubtedly a quite brilliant piece of work which stirs up the most uncertain emotions in its viewers. Walerian Borowczyk would soon abandon animation to make a series of explicit live action sex films. Often referred to as an artist who happened to be a pornographer, Borowczyk’s shift to live action of any kind was animation’s loss.

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