Mad God (2021)
June 19, 2022 1:56 AM - Subscribe

Follow The Assassin through a forbidding world of tortured souls, decrepit bunkers, and wretched monstrosities forged from the most primordial horrors of the subconscious mind. Every set, creature, and effigy in this macabre masterpiece is hand-crafted and painstakingly animated using traditional stop-motion techniques. MAD GOD is a labor of love, a testament to the power of creative grit, and an homage to the timeless art of stop-motion animation. Ready your eyes. Ready your spirit. Prepare to meet your maker.

Mad God is a mature film made with technology that spans the history of cinema. Phil Tippett has been working on it for over 30 years. All I want to discuss is ... what the hell did I just watch???
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 (10 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Where can we partake?
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:06 PM on June 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

ah, of course. It's streaming on Shudder which has a 7 day free trial period going right now
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:20 PM on June 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

That was... quite a thing. I'm not sure that I can answer the question: there's obvious references to religion (the Tower of Babel and some of the proclamations of God in the Old Testament at the beginning, the "Big Bang" at the end.) Some the early scenes, as the Assassin descends into lower levels ringed by circles of disposed Gods and abandoned weapons, reminded me of Milton, Dante, Jung and Hieronymus Bosch. There's also clear homages to Ray Harryhausen, Tippet's original inspiration when he was 10 years old, particularly in the worker gorilla shovel fight.

What's most remarkable to me is that a movie without a single line of dialog held my attention for 90 minutes.

From what I've gleaned, work on the film was abandoned for 20 years, but reinvigorated by Kickstarter funding, which enabled Tippet to bring in volunteers and people from his own studio, none of whom knew the techniques of stop-motion animation. At some point, Tippet's breakdown (severe enough to require monitored care) further delayed the project.

A fairly constant refrain from critics comments on the film's bleakness. What struck me most is the movie's eternal cycle of predation: most every character abuses, uses and tortures everyone else. Worse still, much of this is done impersonally, as part of a process, without apparent conscious malice.

It's not an easy movie-watching experience, but it is technically stunning. (My personal favourite is the Plague Doctor / "mother" character near the end: the way the black ribbons constantly swirl around her, as if she's underwater). I haven't stopped thinking about it for days.

(Saxon, the film also has a limited theatrical release in the US).
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 1:27 PM on June 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

the plague doctor is absolutely an image that will haunt me for a long time. amazing. I do wonder if the film is sort of an allegory for life at a molecular level, and our struggle to find medical interventions to prolong life. Anything I've read about Tippett's ideas for the film don't support this, but the way the film seems to probe deeper and deeper into it's world, like a refocusing of a microscope, differences in scale between different different entities, injections, doctors and nurses, T4 Bacteriophage all being used as imagery makes me wonder. If that is actually the theme, then the end suggests that life is a virus spread through the universe. But maybe that's just me trying to impose order into a piece of art that is in essence chaotic?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:11 AM on June 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

I don't believe that anybody who would spend thirty years crafting a work of art this beautiful and intricate and powerful believes that we're all just bugs crawling around in puke and piss and shit. It's impossible to create a passionate work that is truly nihilistic, just categorically. It's a paradox. I'm not sure I enjoyed this film, and I don't think I'll ever see it again, but I do think it's about as brilliant an art film as I have ever experienced. I genuinely believe that this film will be admired for generations, by audiences all over the world.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:58 AM on June 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Interesting interview with Tippett
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:40 PM on June 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Tippett was interviewed on Mark Maron's WTF podcast recently. Highly recommended. It's Tippett's life story including how to developed he skills, how he got involved with Star Wars, and much more.
posted by neuron at 10:22 AM on June 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

this movie is multiple of the most intense and authentic depictions of total gibbering hellscapes I've ever seen. it is a kaleidoscope of ugliness and chaos and somehow also beauty? horrific by more definitions of that word than I would have ever imagined a film capable

from the interview linked a couple posts above:
“I always have hope. I mean, you don’t have anything else, even if it’s in the last moments of your life,” he says. “It’s a wonderful and a cruel world out there, and you’ve got to embrace both.” Tippett says that Mad God was his attempt to find that balance between the wondrous and the cruel. “The [film] is very much influenced by Hieronymus Bosch. It’s filled with horrible, demonic stuff but also whimsy, you know? Visions of Heaven.”
seems about right
posted by Kybard at 1:36 PM on July 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm not so sure I caught much whimsy. Lots of "bugs crawling around in puke and piss and shit," as kittens for breakfast put it, but whimsy was in very short supply. All the grossness and slime felt performative and shallow after a while. I don't mean to minimize the obvious pain the creation caused Tippett, described in the interview 5_13_... linked, but as a viewer the insistence on despair and the lack of any discernable narrative arc keep this fascinating animated gem from classic status for me. Glad I watched it, highly recommend it to pals with a similar taste for the bizarre, but it falters in a few important ways.
posted by mediareport at 3:45 PM on January 15, 2023

I wish I could be 15 again and see this in some art theater. No superlative is too much. I feel like people really do gotta see this movie.

It's so overwhelming. The parting sliding brick path of gold for the floating plague doctor; the whole Metropolis/factory of the dustbunny people. I was sad that the assassin #2's story disappeared into the spiral.
posted by fleacircus at 9:32 PM on February 17, 2023

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