By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Seder-Masochism is an animated film that’s not easy to classify. In one level, it’s a very loose retelling of Passover Seder, and in another, it’s an animated Broadway musical! One part developed to entertain and another part attacking the patriarchy within organised religion, I’m not certain if I should worry. I have my own opinion about following the light and never patronise how others follow God.
With this work, the events from the Book of Exodus are retold by Moses, Aharon, the Angel of Death, Jesus, and the director’s own father. The Goddesses, humanity’s earliest deities, are well represented. Presented are effigies of Lilith, Catal Huyuk, the Venus of Hohle Fels and the Venus of Willendorf. Great Isis is just as important, and a lot of time is spent interpreting what this ancient Egyptian culture’s spiritual path is like. Much of it is accurate, including the roles she played in Greco-Roman times. With these character designs, the way these Egyptian figures look suggests a sense of worry because of what’s looming.
This detail is from the official plot synopsis. I understood the mother earth references and know something about the worship of this pagan deity. She’s a lot more powerful than what Western Civilisation give her credit for. Given how she’s shoved into the background as new spirituality movements wish to reshape the Earth, I think it’s about time she got a chance to shine. Again, from the official synopsis, this movie resurrects the Great Mother in a tragic struggle against the forces of patriarchy.
Not a lot of compare and contrast are made to show what she can offer to the world versus how current forces prefer to decide the fate of others with the swing of the blade. Those moments have a very South Park type of feel to it. The musical interludes are very much inspired by The Beatles own animated magnum opus, The Yellow Submarine. The soundtrack is not limited to one performer. To list them all is impossible, but I heard Oingo Boingo, Led Zeppelin and Guns n’ Roses.
A rewatch is definitely needed to understand the themes. I had a chuckle in how Moses is designed. His head looks like two tablets put together and I’m sure that was filmmaker/artist Nina Paley‘s intention. Her message is not even being shoved too hard either. God is curiously designed to imply The Illuminati are at work. The all-seeing eye and the pyramid may seem to be universal images, but I think she wants to tell more.
Paley certainly wants to help inspire and change the world one step at a time. In order for that to happen, I’m glad both films she’s made are easily accessible. Her first film her debut work, Sita Sings the Blues, is a personal work, but this latest goes a step further. They are both in the public domain so viewers can take inspiration from and let the word spread through word of mouth.
4½ Stars out of 5
Postscript: This work is worth checking out on a big screen because it’s very colourful and picturesque. I saw this during the 2019 Victoria Film Festival and am glad to have chosen to see it at a hotel’s private 30 seat movie theatre. It could have been shown at The Vic Theatre, but I assume the programmers were unsure of how well received this work will get. For the show I went to, I was told it was sold-out, which is a good sign. This film will return.