Bodysong review

:. Director: Simon Pummell
:. Genre: Documentary
:. Running Time: 1:23
:. Year: 2003
:. Country: UK


A furious kaleidoscope of the human experience during the last century, Bodysong celebrates the glories and cruelties of human beings. And there are many.

Covering the gamut from birth to death and all that happens in between, from learning to walk to learning to speak and then to protest, and onto both hetero and homosexual sex, without forgetting war and revolution, there are hardly any stones left unturned in the images used to convey human life.

The images cover 100 years of cinematography, from the highly medical to the overtly pornographic. One of the strengths of the film is that it never becomes a trip down memory lane nor are there too many images that would be instantly recognizable in this media infatuated society. Footage is used judiciously and to his credit Pummell doesn't try to give a sense of history chronologically, i.e. "Here's the 1950's! And here we are in the 1980's!" Instead, the film is divided up by category. While the images used are familiar in that they show facets of society, there aren't a lot of images that are branded on the public consciousness. On the film's Web site there is access to every scene in the film with explanations of each story behind the image.

Though there seemed to be an overabundance of highly graphic scenes of women giving birth, everywhere from the highly clinical to poetic underwater birthing scenes, Pummell explained after the screening at AFI Fest 2003 that he realized that his experience in witnessing the birth of his child was the same joy experienced by thousands of people all over the world. However, this unifying sequence is still a bit long.

While nothing was left to the imagination for the birth scenes, the war footage was not as explicit as expected given the brutal honesty of other images. Death through acts of war or torture were not depicted and given that such footage exists it would certainly have shown the depths of inhumanity on this earth. At the same time, great care would have been needed to not exploit anyone's death or to turn that sequence into a collage of snuff films.

One of the most fascinating sequences is when the human voice is finally heard. The audience hears someone deaf learning to speak and the allegory is made from learning to use the human voice to moving on to use that voice for social responsibility and non-violent protest.

As for the graphic sex scenes, footage choices veers more on the experience of males. From blowjobs to homosexual acts, women aren't really in charge in this section. Surely some other scenes available worldwide could have fully completed the picture.

Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood provides a soundtrack that is powerfully hypnotic, replacing the spoken word of narration with an emotionally pulsating rhythm to create a nest of heartbeats. It also ties the entire film together.

Making a film of this nature, wrought with so many emotions and images that won't easily be forgotten, means leaving the audience with a feeling of hope or a feeling of despair. In the end, though, there will always be images that could have been included but that's like looking at someone's top ten record list. You can always add something. Instead of ending with death, Pummell opts to conclude the film with an invigorating hope in the power of the human voice.

  Anji Milanovic

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