Those who have never worked with film may not know how difficult it can be to add sound to a movie. Unlike video, where the microphone can be a part of the camera, thus recording audio directly onto the tape, the audio in film must be recorded separately, thus adding more expense. Because of this, many ultra low-budget movies, such as students films (trust me) or experimental movies, are shot with no audio (or MOS as it's known in the industry). But, today, it's rare to encounter a feature length film which was shot in this fashion. This is the unique feature of Defenceless: A Blood Symphony, and also one of its pitfalls.
Susanne Hausschmid stars in Defenceless: A Blood Symphony as a woman who named Elizabeth Peace who is involved in a deal to sell ocean-front property to build a high-rise. But, at closing, she refuses to sign the paperwork. Because of this, the three men involved in the deal (Mitchell Turner, George Gladstone, and Anthony Thorne) decide to intimidate Elizabeth by killing her husband (Colin Savage). This does indeed scare Elizabeth and she sends her son (Max Hopkins) to live with a friend.
From here, Defenceless: A Blood Symphony begins to get really weird. Elizabeth buries her husband, attempts suicide, and becomes a lesbian. If that isn't strange enough, the last act of the film is a odd amalgam of a zombie movie and a revenge flick.
When I read the synopsis of Defenceless: A Blood Symphony, I expected to find something similar to I Spit on Your Grave, and the movie is sort of like that, with one major difference: There is no dialogue in the movie. The soundtrack consists solely of some sound effects and orchestral music -- thus the "symphony" part of the title. This certainly makes the film a curiosity, as I've never seen what would be considered a silent film, but it also hurts the movie.
Again, like I Spit on Your Grave, Defenceless: A Blood Symphony contains very brutal imagery. There is very graphic violence which includes stabbings, disemboweling, genitals removed, and cannibalism. Along with this, we get two graphic rapes. These scenes do include some screams on the soundtrack, but for the most part, they are accompanied solely by the music. Now, I get what writer/director Mark Savage, and his production partner Hausschmid are trying to do here. They've taken repulsive scenes of violence and set them to beautiful music. The juxtaposition of light and dark is hard to miss. But, the effort misses the mark.
Due to the lack of dialogue, the audience is forced to turn to visual cues and the actor's faces to follow the story. While this is fairly simple, this approach robs the film of any true characterization and emotion. So, when Elizabeth is attacked, or when she attacks her assailants, the effect is quite dulling and numbing. It's as if we are watching some insane person's idea of a music video, as the blood flows to the soothing sounds of beautiful music. The visuals certain evoke a reaction, but it's purely visceral and not emotional.
The film is further hampered by the odd turn which the story takes. The first half of the film is fairly straight-forward. But, the second half takes on a more dream-like approach and makes very little sense. Even from an art-house standpoint, the skewed reality presented in the third reel further distances the audience from the story and even the most die-hard EuroHorror fan will find the film difficult to accept.
Defenceless: A Blood Symphony refuses to sell out on DVD courtesy of Subversive Cinema. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks fairly good, as the picture is relatively sharp and clear. There is only a slight amount of grain and no discernible defects from the source material. The colors are good, most notably the red blood which is constantly being shed and the green hills. However, the entire movie is a little too bright and thus looks a bit drab.
The DVD features a Dolby stereo audio track which does a great job of reproducing the film's score. And that's really all that can be said here.
The Defenceless: A Blood Symphony DVD contains a few extras. Writer/director/editor/photographer Mark Savage and star/producer Susanne Hausschmid provide an AUDIO COMMENTARY for the film. While this is an informative commentary, as they discuss locations, how the film was shot, the length of time which it took to make the movie, and the like, it didn't go deep enough for my taste into why they wanted to make such a movie. "Inside Defenceless (43 minute) offers more insight, as it features extensive interviews with Savage and Hausschmid, as well as comments from actors Anthony Thorne, George Gladstone, Bethany Fisher, and Erin Walsh. This segment is comprised solely of interviews and film clips, with no behind-the-scenes footage. The extras are rounded out by a STILL GALLERY, CAST AND CREW BIOS, and a TRAILER, which is 16 x 9.
Defenceless: A Blood Symphony is the kind of film which will have a difficult time finding an audience. The art-house crowd which would normally like this sort of thing will most likely balk when the first penis is ripped off, and those who like the sound of that will be bored silly by the rest of the film. The "no dialogue" experiment is certainly an interesting one, but the film is emotionless and I feel that even Jean Rollin would find the whole thing to be ponderous.