15 – 106mins – 1974
“KILL THE TABERNACLE!”
Ignoring the maxim “less is more”, this dystopian sci-fi from the director of the more–fondly-remembered Deliverance (1972) and Excalibur (1981) is a trippy and continually baffling amalgam of myriad discordant genre ideas (talking data rings, psychic powers, memory rooms), existentialist theories on life, death, society and religion, sex education (seriously!) and bonkers fancy dress costumes, starring a former 007 as a nappy-wearing Executioner.
Having spent the first twenty minutes wandering silently through ever-more bizarre and diverse locations from a flying stone head to a country farm, Sean Connery’s Zed is enslaved and has his memories probed by a community of unlikable immortal bread bakers who at one point engage in an uncomfortable kissing orgy to extract the “life” from him.
John Boorman’s film attempts to justify its incomprehension with lofty literary references (L. Frank Baum, T.S. Eliot, Nietzsche) and elevate its standing with an oft-repeated refrain of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, but it all just comes off as too clever for its own good. Entertainment really shouldn’t be this difficult to digest.
Much like the film itself (oh, how meta of me), I am going to end my review with quotes from the script to justify my opinion. “It is certainly very fragmented,” someone comments after watching a vidscreen of Zed’s life as a gun-toting Brutal. While as a man lays dying at the film’s busy conclusion, he utters the perfect summation: “It was all a joke!” Pity unimpenetrable cult claptrap Zardoz isn’t a funny one.