I just watched a movie that made me ROFLMAOOL about fifty times. Maybe a hundred times. You’ll not want to miss this…
There are a lot of reasons that I love my friend Ana, and I fully admit that one of them is that she give me things now and then that make me happy. Like cookies. And hysterically funny movies on DVD. And more cookies.
But enough with the cookies. Lets talk about the DVD.
On a recent religious holiday, Ana gave me a copy of “… and on the 7th day, God Rocked.” Yesterday, I finally got around to watching it. It turns out that this film is a mockumentary. Indeed, it is a rockumentary. Actually, a mockurockumentary, about a Christian Rock Battle of the Bands among bible-thumping Jesus-loving musical groups in Duluth, Minnesota.
Coen Brothers move over.
There are several things that make God Rocked, directed by Jason Page and produced by Carrie Boberg, excellent. One is very subtle and will be lost on most reviewers; This film perfectly captures the culture of Upper East Central Minnesota. The accents are perfect, still the cultural stylings are palpable yet invisible, just like they should be. For example, the use of the word “yet” is precisely what it should be for this locale. I had thought North Country did a fair job of depicting this general region of Minnesota, and of course the Coen brothers do OK with the broader Minnesota Trope. But in comparison, God Rocked nails it like a walleye on a Lindy rig.
There is a lot of singing in this film, which opens with the penultimate meeting of the Battle of the Bands to determine which Jesus group is going to get a recording contract. The talent among the singers is very impressive. Even the most strident atheist, such as myself, will be tapping one’s feet and singing along to the most obnoxious and offensive religious lyrics. Also notable is the fact that you can easily understand every word of every song. Think about that for a minute. There are about ten or twelve different songs used in his film, and in retrospect, I realize the director intended that I hear every line clearly, but sitting there watching the film one does not perceive this artifice. Well done.
The reason that one needs to hear all the words is that they are an integral part of the dialog. This is where fully half of the character development happens for each of the band members, as well as for the bands themselves. Borderline psychopathy, repressed sexuality, neurotic delusional syndrome, severe narcissism, more repressed sexuality, self loathing, more psychopathy, and affective personality disorder, as features of the characters one might expect in a gaggle of god groups, are revealed through the songs as well as “backstage” interviews.
The film has some very nice “touches” that are well used as plot elements. After a post-opening sequence that is the body of the film there is a second concert to determine which god-rock group will win the battle of the bands. Outside the church that has been rented for the event is a man with a Billy Graham Haircut who I’m sure resembles one of our local street corner bible thumbing preachers, and he is outside the church doing his thing. Except in this film he is a preachy over the top atheist. Nice.
Enough of the characters have a dark side, often sexually perverted or utterly psychotic, each revealed in part or in full, that you come to assume that all of the characters are so tainted. Which brings a disturbingly familiar measure of mundane realness to the film. The motivations of the band members also run the gamut from true dedication to Jesus approach to the vengeful rider of the apocalyptic horsey motif to the enforcer of Leviticus style. It might even be the case that some of the musicians are just in it for the prize money and the studio time. I’m not telling…
The show is produced and managed, and judeged, by an hysterically funny over the top group of people that are exactly like anyone you might meet in Duluth Minnesota, but then you get to know them for a little while longer than you intended and every minute that goes by reveals something more (in the case of the husband of the producer) or less (in the case of the local TV news weather lady who claims that being an actual meteorologist would be “just showing off”). Within this group, the battle of the bands is mirrored by a battle of the egos, as the two main “idea people” vie against each other to be recognized more as they participate less, using the double edged sword of Minnesota Nice and Passive Aggressive Kung Fu. The important thing is to control the blame. Remember that.
What would a Godumentary be without judgement? And here there are three judges who determine the winner at each phase of the Battle of the Bands. There is a post modern professorial dit, the afore mentioned weather lady, and the arch typical urban but not urbane ethnically Irish but good old American earnest, very earnest priest, in this role. The finely tuned hand of the director is seen in the way each of these three different characters is contextualized with background and carefully done lighting when they deliver their one/two liners peppered throughout the film.
Religion is psychosis and the religious way of life is a sham, and to me, God Rocked is very clear on this. I find it fascinating that reviews of this film sometimes backpedal on the message …. telling potential viewers “don’t worry, you won’t be offended.” But the psychosis of religion and the shamosity of the religious way of life are revealed by what happens to the producers of the festival and most of the bands, but especially the winning band, by the end. Were it not for the fact that by the end of the film your empathy for the characters (which is unnervingly strong) is matched only by your understanding that they are all clowns playing a farce, you would be quite depressed at the close of credits. In fact, I would say that this is the most funnily depressing film I’ve ever seen. I’m still chuckling. But gloomily.