This is a remarkable avante garde film from 1933. Expressionistic shadows and multiple super exposures create an experience which, by todays standards may look a little film schoolish, but at the time was innovative and shocking. It still, in spite of occasional cliches, remains a beautiful and affecting film.
The story is one of the most perverse in the bible, in which two angels come to Lot's house in Sodom. Lot's lusty sodomite neighbors surround his house and demand the beautiful men be sent out so they can be raped. Lot, unwilling to allow the abuse of these guests of his house, looks to heaven and is told, "Withold not even thy daughters.", so he offers his virgin daughters to the mob instead, and tells them to do with the girls as they see fit. The angels save the day, however, blinding the rapists so they can't find the door.
Evidently, Lot's offering his daughters up for rape is not a big deal to God because he still considers Lot righteous enough to be saved, along with Lot's entire family, except of course, his wife who is turned to a piller of salt for the unforgiveable act of looking over her shoulder to see what the destruction of a city looks like. So remember, if you have to choose who to offer up for gang rape: your defenseless virginal daughters or a couple of magic angels, choose your daughters. But don't ever look where God tells you not to or you will be left in the desert to be licked by salt-hungry camels.
Anyway, back to the film, it is one of the few experimental films I could watch over and over again. It is beautiful, erotic (homo that is), dark and perverse. Some of the Freudian imagery may seem cliche by todays standards, but that's classic film for you. Unlike most experimental film, this has an emotional kick to it. You really sense the villainous, demonic lust of the sodomites as well as the beauty and divine power of the angels through images which are beautifully shot and melodramatic in the best sense of the word.
Friedrich Haak ... Lot
Hildegarde Watson ... Lot's Wife
Dorthea House ... Lot's Daughter (as Dorothea Haus)
Lewis Whitbeck ... Angel
Director: James Sibley Watson / Melville Webber
Codecs: DivX / MP3
Remarkable. I lack words to share my feelings --- yes, I am not fluent in English :-). This is avant-garde, even by today's standards, and I suspect it was felt to be erotic at the time it was shot. Be sure to know at least a little of the story of Lot from the Bible before you see this film.
Having first seen the directors' 12min take on Poe's Fall of the House of Usher, I was looking forward to seeing this one too and wasn't disappointed at all. Though perhaps not quite up to the same level of artistic attainment as 'Usher' it is nevertheless very much in the same vein.
Like the 'Usher', the viewer should be familiar beforehand with the story on which it is based. In 1928, the directors, Watson and Webber, could have safely assumed the audience's knowledge of the biblical tale. (Interestingly, apart from the actual Genesis account, a phrase from the Song of Songs is also used when Lot is offering his daughters to the mob outside, desperately trying to convince them of the attractions of 'woman'). To complain that the film does not present the plot more overtly is beside the point, and almost a declaration of ignorance.
The basics of this tale (for those that know them) survive intact its retelling through the particularly distinctively visual, sometimes abstract or symbolic approach of Webber and Watson, and its protagonists are all clearly identifiable and well portrayed by the actors.
On the whole, a more accessible film than the 'Usher' film from the same directors. It bears, even demands, repeated watching. My only wish is that Webber and Watson had made more than just these two films together.
I saw Lot in Sodom at a film festival about eight years ago and was dazzled by its visuals. The film was shot in the early sound era and, like other films of that period by Dryer, Murnau, and others, the soundtrack is used for music, sound effects and occasional unintelligible words. This film is a must see for anyone interested in the virtuosic film work of the German and Soviet filmmakers of the late silent era as it is a rare example of similar work being done in America. The work's creators used the medium of film to its full potential rather than being content to use the camera to record visuals that could just as easily be seen on a stage.
I tried for years to get a copy of this film and wrote to companies to see if someone might release it on DVD. I am happy to now own a copy, review it repeatedly and share it with friends.
"Lot in Sodom" starts out with a palindrome involving an imagination of Sodom that premeditates both of Kenneth Anger's later works "Inaugeration of the Pleasure Dome" and "Fireworks". It's a description of sin and pleasure with a heavy dark side, slightly feverish in mentality and burdened down (purposefully) by kaleidoscopic imagery and multiple exposures and cuts. After the mirrored tale, we're introduced to Lot and his family, and the movie actually becomes one of the more narrative avant-garde films I've ever seen.
The makers of "Lot in Sodom" did a very good job in mixing together both the experimental side of the still relatively new medium and iconographic imagery. Weird abstract editing style matches Christian icons and symbolism, and a well-known Christian story is told via intertitles AND sound (a pretty good mix of the two, if I may say so myself).
The movie itself is somewhat effective at presenting its themes, but it's true power as an experimental work resides always in its imagery. The images of fire raining from the sky are actually uncannily accurate to the type of ways God's wrath is described in these sources, and the woman turning into a pillar of salt is a resounding moment of special effects... even if it is just double-exposure and really good choreography. I think if ever a movie makes a good argument for the potential of cinema, "Lot in Sodom" is a good film to turn to because it so well manifests an understood story in a whole new form very different from what we accept as generic narrative form today.
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