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Psychopathia Sexualis

Kino // R // January 9, 2007
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Svet Atanasov | posted December 30, 2006 | E-mail the Author
The Film:

I am not quite so sure what to make of Bret Wood's latest Psychopathia Sexualis (2006). Here's why:

Attempting to deconstruct the legacy of renowned psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing and his controversial studies on the nature of sexual perversity Pshychopathia Sexualis is certainly a film unlike anything you've seen this year. Sexual repression, vampirism, hypnosis, sadomasochism, lesbianism, and necrophilia are in the center of a fractured storyline where the only common element is the desire to explain the unexplainable.

Set amidst a sea of lush Victorian decors however and plenty of questionable sex scenes Pshychopathia Sexualis quickly becomes more of a softcore, late-night, extra-zesty soap opera than a worthy look at the work of a scientist and his findings. The too careful but sensationalist approach to Krafft-Ebing's studies is marred by what I can only describe as mediocrity. From the screenplay, to the direction, and finally the actors' contribution Psychopathia Sexualis fails convincingly.

From the array of issues that bothered me in this film there are two in particular that stood up above everything else:

Acting! It is obvious and truly disappointing to see that Psychopathia Sexualis fails where it should have been most convincing if the audience is to be fully engaged in a story aiming at deconstructing sexual perversion(s). The director's intent to show what leads to the medical conditions described above appears genuine yet the static presence of "actors" who "act" as if they have never been in front of the camera is the only aspect of this film that I found shocking! Shouldn't it have been the other way around?

Explicitness! I am going to side with the director of Psychopathia Sexualis Bret Wood on this one and blame film editor Craig Tollis for what appears to be an incoherent mess of semi-revealing images forcing the viewer into some severe head-scratching! Why? Because the politically correct editing (and yes, I have taken into account the fact that this DVD release offers the "unrated director's cut") of Psychopathia Sexualis is just as disappointing as is the mentioned above acting. The rough camera cuts during key moments when deprivation is supposedly being examined are so abrupt that they de facto transform the film into one of those dreadful after-hours skin flicks where the more you show the better. Only here even the more is of poor quality!!

Finally, I sense that there is a great and rather unfortunate mismatch that occurred in Psychopathia Sexualis. The occasional glimpses of elegant cinematography blended with daring costumes suggest that Bret Wood was way ahead of what his cast and supporting team were able to provide. I also sense that the director of Psychopathia Sexualis wanted to go a step further, make the film a bit rougher, yet he was forced to remain politically correct for the sake of having his message heard/seen! So he gave up! Did Bret Wood make the correct decision? I am unsure. Suffice to say Psychopathia Sexualis hardly tells more than what you already know about sexual deprivation.

How Does the DVD Look?

Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's the film looks quite good. Colors are well-saturated and strong, detail is well-handled, edge-enhancement is not an issue. The actual print is also of very high quality and I suspect that the DVD transfer accurately presents the film as it was seen in theaters. Really, there is very little here that one could be upset with: a good and deserving treatment is what KINO have provided.

How Does the DVD Sound?

Providing a basic English 2.0 track and a more elaborate 5.1 track the audio treatment is indeed on par with the video presentation. I could not detect any disturbing hissing or drop-outs and overall the audio (narration) is very easy to follow. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles of any sort provided for this release.


In addition to a selection of trailers and a gallery of photos the disc also offers nine deleted scenes (none of which are particularly interesting to discuss as they mainly contain some more provocative snippets and footage...gore, explicit dialog, prolonged action), a collection of interviews with Bret Wood (director), Tracy Martin (Producer), David Bruckner (Director of Photography), Lisa Paulsen (Actress), Bryan Davis (Actor), Paul Mercer (composer). If you choose not to listen to all of the interviews I encourage you to at least see the fragment with Bret Wood as it practically proves much of what I pointed out above: this film was marred by a number of [i]issues[/i] ranging from location difficulties (some local politicians as it appears would have been affected by having this film shot in their district) to cast and financing. Next, there is a text section titled "About Krafft-Ebing" which highlights some specific facts from the scientist's life and work. Next, there is a fragment called "Shadow Puppetry" which recreates some of the puppet sequences used in the film. Finally, we have three script excerpts as well as two short films titled: Judgment (2005), 8 min. and Rapture (2006), 7 min.

Final Words:

Psychopathia Sexualis is an ambitious project which unfortunately falls short of being as convincing as its subject matter requires it to be. As mentioned earlier it appears that Bret Wood was simply a level (or more) above everyone else involved in this picture. I truly hope that next time around the director will have a better luck securing a talented cast.

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