Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Some reviews of Barbet Schroeder's first film make it appear a brainless story of young
people overdosing on sex and drugs to the accompaniment of Pink Floyd music. That assessment
couldn't be farther from the truth. More is perhaps the first 'turned-on' movie to
give a truly accurate picture of what the 60s drug culture did to people, a couple of years
before American pictures found the subject in films like Panic in Needle Park.
German hitchhiker Stefan Brückner (Klaus Grünberg) hooks up with
petty thief and fellow vagabond Charlie (Michel Chanderli) in Paris. He also meets Estelle
Miller (Mimsy Farmer), a carefree but mysterious girl who tells Stefan he can meet her on
Ibiza, the sunny Spanish island. Stefan arrives to find Estelle in an odd relationship
with local big shot Dr. Ernesto Wolf (Heinz Engelmann). Estelle steals some of Wolf's money
and the two split for an idyll on the other side of the island, interrupted only by the
visit of Cathy (Louise Wink), Estelle's lover. But Stefan discovers that Estelle is
interested in heroin, and an experimental try leads to him becoming addicted as well. They
shake the habit until Estelle secretly drifts back to Dr. Wolf ... it's in his best interest
to see both of these young people under his control.
More is anything but an endorsement of drug use. Stefan is an un-formed drifter who crosses paths with two influences, a petty criminal and a beautiful young American girl who turns out to be a heroin addict. At first it seems that Stefan's attraction to Estelle might save him from criminal arrests and a sorry life, but we soon find out that being a crook would have been the healthier choice.
The amoral Stefan isn't the most likeable protagonist and comes off as something of a blank slate in the first section of the film. When he finally locates Estelle on a supposed island paradise, her personality seems to have changed. Although Estelle likes Stefan, she has no intention of being honest with him.
Stefan can handle the fact that Estelle has sexual relations with a girlfriend. But she's also under the paternalistic guidance/power of Dr. Wolf, an older German businessman who owns a café but is also the island's dope connection. This Stefan cannot abide, as Wolf clearly represents the authority he went on the road to escape.
Estelle eventually finds that that easy way to end Stefan's questions about her activities is to involve him in hard drugs as well. He tries heroin because Estelle claims that she only has one dose left. Stefan has no idea that she regularly renews her supply with Wolf, probably in exchange for sexual favors.
Estelle also steals money from Wolf so the pair can live together in a secluded house. It takes no time at all for Stefan to be as avid a junkie as Estelle; in one rather glorious scene they mix up a wild barbiturate cocktail from whatever's handy in the kitchen, and run out into the sunshine to exalt the sun god and express their joy.
But the joy is for the illusory drug experience. Opiates take their users to a comfortable, ecstatic place, one that easily becomes preferable to existence in the real world. Stefan and Estelle are briefly happy as junkies, but two zonked out individuals are not a real couple and their life together is not a viable relationship.
Klaus Grünberg's performance grows on us as his closed-off character reveals more interesting details. Beneath Stefan's rebel facade is a young man with a background and a culture that his drugged-out lifestyle cannot erase. He works for a while in Dr. Wolf's café, and sings heimat songs with him to entertain the older German tourists. Smuggler-thief Charlie passes through and tries to pull Stefan free of his servitude to Estelle and heroin, but his effort is far too late.
Mimsy Farmer started out in square Hollywood pictures, took a step down to American-International exploitation (Riot on Sunset Strip) and with More graduated into leading roles in Europe. She's nothing short of brilliant as a young woman carefully guarding the secrets of a tawdry lifestyle. She can't afford show her real personality. She may no longer have a complete personality.
For once, an epigram spoken during the film is a perfect fit. Someone speaks of sun worshippers that stared at the sun in hopes of reaching a higher level of enlightenment, only to be rewarded by being struck blind. The irony in More is that Stefan and Estelle identify with the story, even though they have no ambition beyond momentary pleasure. What they relate to is the epigram's sense of oblivion.
Home Vision Entertainment's DVD of More gives us a flat-letterboxed (1.55) transfer of a film that may have been shot on 16mm. It's either that, or prime elements for the film could not be found. Nestor Almendros' natural photography finds attractive images everywhere, especially in a lovemaking scene within some mosquito netting. At one point Estelle injects herself under the tongue, leaving a bloodstain on her lips. To Almendros' camera, it might be the mark of a vampire.
Pink Floyd's music is used intermittently but to excellent effect, mainly at the height of drug experiences. But Schroeder refrains from treating the drug trips subjectively - we stay outside, often watching as the two lovers are reduced to insensate vegetables. More is about the destruction of personalities.
The one extra is a trailer that sells the film as a Pink Floyd freak-out extravaganza. Wheeler Winston Dixon supplies liner notes that chart Schroeder's career and offers insights on More's place as a serious film about the 60s drug scene.
I remember frequently seeing the record album for More in soundtrack bins but was never
anywhere near a theatrical run for the movie. Once while buying an LP, a woman attempted to return
a copy. She thought that the album would have the theme from Mondo Cane.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: March 27, 2005
Republished by permission of Turner Classic Movies.
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson