GENERATION GAME | The Dance of Reality

In his autobiopic, Jorodowsky is not giving us the cold, hard facts, but inviting us along for the wildly unruly ride.


For the psychoanalytically inclined, the tone of The Dance of Reality is established right at the start. As little Alejandro runs past his parents’ shop, his mother calls out “why are you running like that, father dear?”, to which Alejandro indignantly replies, “I’m not your father! I’m your son!” Alejandro Jorodowsky’s autobiographical epic focuses – or rather resolutely digresses – on his father, Jaime, a violent disciplinarian, steadfast communist who dresses like Stalin, lingerie salesman, volunteer fireman and long-suffering Ukrainian Jew in a small town of antisemites. 

The film’s preoccupation with Alejandro’s relationship with his father opens out into a wider, stranger dilation on parents and children. Inverting the conventional narrative of a coming-of-age memoir, it is Jaime, the father, who leaves home and who we follow on his self-allocated mission to assassinate President Ibañez. On his travels, Jaime finds and then dramatically loses a succession of father figures, including a horse trainer, a carpenter, and Ibañez himself. Once you learn that it is Alejandro Jorodowsky’s real life son, Brontis Jorodowsky, who plays the on-screen father, it becomes clear that Jorodowsky’s aim is proliferating suggestion rather than diagnosis when it comes to matters Freudian. (Back at home, Alejandro and his mother, both naked, are smothering each other in shoe polish.)

The participation of Jorodowsky Jr. adds a specific formal aspect to this autobiopic: intergenerational re-enactment. The Argentinian theatre- and film-maker Lola Arias has made this her trademark: in Theatre of War, veterans from both sides of the Falklands/Malvinas conflict direct younger men in recreations of their memories of the war; in The Year I Was Born, young Chileans use their parents’ material possessions to recreate the hidden lives they led under the Pinochet dictatorship. This process offers an inversion of historical as well as familial roles, and offers a new understanding of the past to both generations. 

The whole project of The Dance of Reality feels intimately personal when we think of it at Jorodowsky watching his son perform his father’s life. The casting decision has the effect of reminding us that this film is not simply a product, shaped by firm knowledge and definitive emotions, but a process – just as memory itself is entirely unstatic. Jorodowsky is not giving us the cold, hard facts, but inviting us along for the wildly unruly ride.

 

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