Monday, August 17, 2009

The Ninth Configuration

I had a chance to watch The Ninth Configuration (1980) on DVD a few days a ago (thanks to Matthew Hersch for pointing out the film in his talk at the Film & History conference in Chicago last year). The movie is written and directed by William Peter Blatty - who also wrote The Exorcist and ... A Shot in the Dark (the hilarious Pink Panther sequel!). The Ninth Configuration is indeed strange and may not be everybody's cup of tea. However, it deals head-on with issues dealing with the existence of God. One of the main characters in the movie is an Apollo astronaut - who aborted his mission to the Moon - and is now undergoing treatment for insanity. The reason why he aborted the mission plays a crucial role in the film - including this phenomenal image on the right (don't worry, this is not a spoiler. This image is on the cover of the DVD). The movie is not set on the Moon - nor is it about space. However, there is a short sequence which ends with this haunting image of a lunar crucifixion. I'm not going to say more than this. If for nothing else, the movie is worth seeing for this phenomenal sequence. If this doesn't do it for you, check out this very accurate description by English film critic, Mark Kermode, who describes the film as
a breathtaking cocktail of philosophy, eye-popping visuals, jaw-dropping pretentiousness, rib-tickling humour and heart-stopping action. From exotically hallucinogenic visions of a lunar crucifixion to the claustrophobic realism of a bar-room brawl, via such twisted vignettes as Robert Loggia karaoking to Al Jolson and Moses Gunn in Superman drag (don't ask), Blatty directs like a man with no understanding of, or interest in, the supposed limits of mainstream movie-making. The result is a work of matchless madness which divides audiences as spectacularly as the waves of the Red Sea, a cult classic that continues to provoke either apostolic devotion or baffled dismissal 20 years on.
In addition, Blatty considers the movie as a sequel to the Exorcist. The astronaut in The Ninth Configuration makes a brief appearance in The Exorcist. If it is a sequel, it is a sequel based on theme not on story.

In any case, check it out. It may be hard to find - I had to order it from a seller on Amazon.

3 comments:

Don said...

So... you fall into the "Apostolic devotion" category?

Salman Hameed said...

I very much liked the movie (hence the post), but I also disagreed with couple of central points presented in the film. This perhaps prevents my devotion getting to an Apostolic level :)

Don said...

Way to buck the film critic, Salman :) Guess I'll have to see what the controversial parts are, then. Perhaps you were turned off by the "jaw-popping pretentiousness"?