If last week’s film, Good Bye, Lenin!, was an example of how great films don’t need to be difficult to watch, then Holy Motors is its antithesis. Leos Caprax’s Holy Motors was, and I seem to keep saying this after almost every movie we’ve watch in this course, one of the weirdest films I have ever seen. This mainly came from the film’s difficulty to understand. I found myself feeling confused and even grossed out at some point, yet none of that stopped me from watching. It was a movie that knew just how to disturb its audience while still leaving them wondering what each scene meant and what will happen next.
Holy Motors follows a man named Oscar as he goes about what the audience can assume to be a day in his life as an “actor”. He has nine appointments for the day, which entails him to use an insane amount of make-up, props, and full-on identity and personality changes. As he goes through the appointments, they start getting weirder and weirder, from an old lady, to having simulated alien sex, to dismembering, to killing, and to even dying (but also, never actually dying).
Each story simply had no basis or end—they were kept unexplained, leaving the audience in the aforementioned confusion and curiosity. I was left with so many questions, was the scene with the “daughter” just another appointment? Or was it his real life breaking in between scenes? Why did Oscar kill that random guy in the café? Why did he never die amidst getting shot at multiple times? All of these, and more, led me to start second-guessing everything in the film. I started to construct my own theories and explanations that would try to remotely answer these queries, like maybe just like the actors of characters who die in scenes, the actors in this reality (like Oscar) are never harmed.
Acting and performance plays a main role in the film. Very simply, Holy Motors is about an actor acting without any cameras around. The whole story, especially that of Oscar’s, is a symbol for the crazy life that actors lead. It presents a case of how they can get lost in their own characters, they become their characters. Whether this is good or bad is answered by whether the viewer chooses to look at the film as a prime example of commitment or as a case in point of going crazy. The world in which these people live in shows how the lines between reality and entertainment are so blurred that only a select people seem to know what’s going on.
More than anything, this film presents performance as an art and as beauty. It’s intriguing and captivating, but you’ll never know what it’s truly about. Just when you think you start to understand, you’re faced with a new sequence that you’re left dumfounded with.