As an admitted admirer of Marilyn Manson’s work, the thought of a film both written and directed by the reigning king of shock rock is an intriguing prospect. The recent rumors alone of a Manson-starring sequel to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “El Topo” nearly drive me mad with fan-boy anticipation. So it was with great interest that I approached Manson’s short film, “Doppelherz”, available as a bonus disc in a limited edition version of his new album, “The Golden Age of Grotesque.” The album itself is a satisfyingly sordid delight, if you’re into that sort of thing, and clearly inspired by the dark decadence of Weimer-era Berlin. The accompanying film however is an insufferable, unwatchable, pretentious, and utterly pointless piece of trash. I haven’t yet seen Vincent Gallo’s “The Brown Bunny” and may never get the chance, but to those returning from the south of France, let me tell you: I know how you feel. And to Mr. Manson: don’t quit your day job.
Discarding any notion of plot, as well as the creative genius he’s very capable of expressing, Manson apparently decided instead to make some kind of statement here about himself and his place in the grand scheme of things. Exactly what that statement is though, I have no idea. Nor do I care. Nor should anyone. The film tries desperately to achieve an aura of menace and dread, a cinema verité journey through hell, if you will. Yet Manson is no Gaspar Noe and “Doppelherz” is surely no “Irreversible”. What it is in fact, is a nonsensical stream-of-conscious manifesto over a series of dark and grainy images that fail to provoke anything but derisive laughter. These images consist mainly of Manson either sitting in a chair painting his face black or cavorting with two bound (and crowned?) women wearing bodices adorned with fake, naked breasts. Oooohhh… shocking! Manson, you’re so bad… yet so misunderstood too! Manson’s inane proclamations, many of which are unmercifully repeated over and over and over, don’t exactly help matters much either. The rocker’s bid for profundity includes such priceless nuggets as “love your enemy because love is the enemy”, ”the only thing in this world that does not die is money”, and “to be equal you have to add or subtract and I have never liked math.” As is apparent from many of his songs, Manson has a propensity for often-clever wordplay. Yet his attempts here are just lame: “my pupils are not students, they die late but they never learn”, “the commercials should be faster because we are all just slow guns waiting to have our triggers pulled”, etc.
Manson’s videos are often fascinating and even near brilliant at times in their use of imagery and exquisitely bad taste. Clearly a movie buff, his influences range from the obscure (Merhige’s “Begotten”) to the even more obscure (Jodorowsky’s entire oeuvre). These influences pay off big time in his best videos, but here they are all but forgotten. Near the end of this mess, Manson finally utters something that makes perfect sense, “As you are listening, I want you to know that you are only a screen that I project my images of suffering, sorrow, pain, and sex upon, in the brief glimmer of happiness I find in the misery of those who are sitting in the theater of which this screen exists.” Well said Mr. Manson, well said indeed!