SlaughterHouse-Five (1972)

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SlaughterHouse-Five (1972)

Post  BoG on Mon Mar 15, 2010 8:09 pm

Very unusual film - and based on Vonnegut's equally-unusual novel. The main character, Billy Pilgrim, is 'unstuck' in time, jumping to different periods of his life without notice, rather than living linearly as the rest of us do. I think the underlying theme to all of this is 'escape' - escape from the unpleasant aspects of life, escape from the sometime horrors of life. This escape is represented by Pilgrim's comfortable prison on Tralfamadore; there, he is free of the usual life pressures, banality, details and so on. His entire life on Earth seemed to be one form of prison or another anyway, so why not at least one where he doesn't have any worries?

One point raised at least once during the film is how one should enjoy/remember the good moments and try to forget the bad. Easier said than done, eh? - especially since Pilgrim's life seems filled with mostly bad moments - except on Tralfamadore.
One could also argue that being 'unstuck' in time is something we all do - if we reach a certain elderly age, for example, and think back over various moments of our lives, aren't we just doing the same thing that Pilgrim is doing here? One caveat, of course - it may not be that simple since the young Pilgrim of the past is sometimes reacting to events happening to an old Pilgrim of the future - but this still may all just be in someone's mind.

The past is truly dreary and grim here - Vonnegut exorcised his own demons my writing about his personal experiences in Dresden during the War, including the firestorm which engulfed the city. These experiences were obviously a kind of ultimate horror for him and much of that is translated into the film. The drudgery & unpleasant aspects of being a prisoner-of-war are well presented; Pilgrim maintains a mostly positive, naive outlook during most of this, but unpleasant reality always intrudes sooner or later.
All the characters are interesting. Leibman was always good at unbalanced characters and plays the psychotic fellow P.O.W. Paul Lazzaro, who becomes fixated on doing Pilgrim some harm. Roche is also very good as the well-meaning older soldier who becomes a father-figure to Pilgrim. Then there's Gans as Pilgrim's suffocatingly needy and prissy wife; she's a bit overdone - but I guess that was the point - to show how normal middle-class life can be another kind of horror (Pilgrim escapes some of this by focusing on his great dog companion, Spot).

Perrine is sexy and nude as the playmate sent to Pilgrim (who fantasized about her earlier by looking through a magazine photo spread). And Sacks as Pilgrim plays Pilgrim as appropriately benign, almost as a cypher; the aging make-up works extremely well here. I liked this overall; just don't expect a fast pace or great revelations by the end - in fact, you may end up with more questions than answers by the conclusion. BoG's Score: 8 out of 10
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