Several intertitles divide this most disturbing short film. The very first one states, “This film is based on a true story.” Open-minded viewers who manage to sit through the film—which poses a challenge because the film confronts us with incontrovertible evidence of our increasingly tenuous hold on our humanity— will indeed walk away with a glimpse of the ultimate “true story.” But this truth is not a denotative truth. It is what the maverick German director Werner Herzog has referred to as the “ecstatic truth.”
Herzog himself has described it as thus: “There are deeper strata of truth in cinema, and there is such a thing as poetic, ecstatic truth. It is mysterious and elusive, and can be reached only through fabrication and imagination and stylization.” Very few contemporary films strive to reach this stratum of the ecstatic truth, and even fewer make it there. But this challenging fare from the Parisian duo Alex and Niko lives up to this daunting task by presenting us with a faux docudrama that details in most gruesome minutia one lonely prostitute’s socio-psychological experiment of monumental significance. Ethical standards preclude scientists from conducting such experiments. But forward-thinking cinematic guerillas like Alex and Niko instead resort to the already mentioned “fabrication and imagination and stylization” to carry out the experiment in the world of celluloid and show us the shocking but inevitable result.
Monika is a prostitute who collects semen from her countless johns. The film presents these johns as literally anonymous and faceless, placing a physical black bar over their faces. And then she inseminates herself with the collective semen from the countless men of all types. She eventually gives birth to a child who symbolizes the proverbial and literal “child of the world.” Her biological ancestry cannot be traced, but we know who her sociological father is. That father is all of the male gender.
This film hails from the depths of the collective unconscious in which epiphany, imagination, and transgression cohabitate. It is also where psychosis and ordered behavior commingle. Alex and Niko serenade us with this threnody, a grim reminder of how we are literally killing ourselves. The final scene—one of a literal birth as well as a symbolic death—will remind some viewers of David Cronenberg’s films. And they might just walk away with mouths agape, whispering to themselves, “Long live the new flesh.”