Beau Is Afraid
Those who understand that Kafka is a funny writer will have fun with BEAU IS AFRAID.
After Ari Aster‘s family horror in HEREDITARY and the folk horror in MIDSOMMAR, the director has made a film that can‘t be categorized into a genre. BEAU IS AFRAID is a comedy, but a terrifying one. Ari Ari himself has called BEAU IS AFRAID a “Jewish Lord of the Rings.“ Mordor is Beau‘s mother. BEAU IS AFRAID is a mythical hell ride.
This hell begins when Beau (Joaquin Phoenix), a soft man who‘s around 50, leaves this therapist‘s office as his therapist warns him to keep his expectations realistic. The street where Beau lives in his shabby apartment is a chaotic urban nightmare: a Latin man dances while shirtless, a junkie wallows on the ground, there‘s a dead man somewhere, a man tattooed all over his body snarls, there‘s dirt and crazy people everywhere. Beau can only survive the street by sprinting. But nothing helps, he has to lose everything in the first act, and then everything goes downhill. Beau has good reasons not to go to his mother‘s, and his mother expected this complete failure. And then the mother is dead, and Beau has to go to the funeral. Beau has another problem: he can‘t have sex, and his mother is probably the reason for that too. His father died during Beau‘s conception, she told him, a genetic defect that kills the men in the family the second they orgasm. His Beatrice is called Elaine and was a prepubescent crush whose photo Beau still keeps.
Beau‘s hero‘s journey leads him from an apartment to a crazy, but very friendly, couple who keep him as a replacement for their dead son. The American suburban dream that promises love, care, and attention at first, the things Beau wishes to get from his mother, turns into a claustrophobic nightmare with an off-the-rails ex GI killer watchdog who lives in the family‘s garden. From there Beau arrives at a forest, where Beau encounters a strange theater cult reminiscent of Kafka‘s Nature Theater of Oklahoma from his “Amerika“ novel fragments. Jewish legends are being acted out, and like the eternal Jew, Beau wanders along the theater backdrop in stories he believes are his own. There are more darkly comic realms until Beau reaches his Mordor.
Those who understand Kafka as a funny writer will have fun with BEAU IS AFRAID, and perhaps they‘ll also be moved by Aster‘s film. But the three hour film asks the audience to engage with Aster‘s weird obsessions more than they did in HEREDITARY and MIDSOMMAR. BEAU IS AFRAID is of course also masterfully filmed by Pawel Pogorzelski, Aster‘s cinematographer since his short films, with absurd perspectives and searing overexposure in the flashbacks. Aster filmed a short film with a similar plot called BEAU in 2011. So it is clearly a passion project.
Translation: Elinor Lewy
USA 2023, 179 min
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Drama
Director: Ari Aster
Author: Ari Aster
DOP: Pawel Pogorzelski
Montage: Lucian Johnston
Music: The Haxan Cloak
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Kylie Rogers, Parker Posey, Amy Ryan, Nathan Lane, Michael Gandolfini
- OV Original version
- OmU Original with German subtitles
- OmeU Original with English subtitles
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