It’s Friday night and I am setting out on a movie-viewing adventure. I have no idea what to expect as we trek across Route 2 to Bronfman. I am fervently hoping that Conspirators of Pleasure will measure up to the standards of my companions, four guys I coerced off of a comfortable, warm couch in Sage.
The auditorium empties after Gladiator, which it seems is the popular choice for the evening. Only the hardcore remain. What sort of person does Conspirators of Pleasure attract? My first impression, upon reading about it in the Daily Advisor, was that I was in for an artistic and probably low-budget comedy. Reading it again that afternoon, however, I was almost wary of what I would see. “An intoxicating surrealist fable about six Prague citizens with various and confoundingly kinky appetites,” read the flyer that I snagged from the wall of Baxter. I have to admit I was fascinated.
As we walked in, I notice that the old couple, who were mysteriously sitting in the front lobby of Bronfman when we entered, were now joining us for the viewing of the intriguing and possibly pornographic Czech film. It might be the peculiar dialect of age, but I was unable to determine the language that passed between them, and so I presumed that these two were Czechoslovakian.
So, there we sit – my entry mates, the Czech citizens (about whom I am inventing an entertaining past) and me. We are perched in the far back of the auditorium, ensuring an easy exit if necessary. We should not worry, for as the minutes pass, scarcely 20 more people file in. There is one other group – highly enthusiastic – and there are several soloists, who are by far more interesting. The movie begins to roll and I sit back to enjoy.
Throughout Conspirators of Pleasure there is no dialogue; the characters move without words through one day in their lives. There are six people, three men and three women, each connected to at least two others in varying degrees of proximity. Two are neighbors, two are married, she is the mailwoman for two, he sells magazines to another, one has a secret crush on her, he almost runs over another in his car. They move about as if in a dance, classical music blaring in the background.
Each seems embarrassingly sensitive to the others’ presence; they are the only people who exist in their world. All along, we are kept in suspense as they go about their secretive business. I followed them closely, assuming that at the conclusion of the day they would join together to complete the game. Though they never speak to one another, they share a secret. They each have a hidden persona. And though most do not know each other well, they are all interrelated because they are conspiring together for that one night. In the end, however, they live out each fantasy separately from the others, but many involve and affect another person in the group.
Throughout the movie, physical sensation is of extreme importance. The characters do not speak (presumably at least in part so that the movie is internationally appreciable), leaving the viewer only to perceive what each character perceives without words – through sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. All of these sensations are heightened, but sound in particular is emphasized because the viewer is able to literally experience it (as opposed to smell, taste or touch).
Sight is used as well, but in this film, the concentration was primarily on sound because of the contrast with typical movies. The piano or violin will be playing very loudly when suddenly, it will cease and we will hear every slight sound, such as the twitch of a finger or the drip of a faucet. I found this aspect of the movie to be especially effective. Although I could not feel the prick of a needle or taste the fur of a coat, I was hyperaware of the character’s attention to these sensations. The intense sound of small motions brought my focus to these actions and set my imagination spinning.
The end of the movie is the enactment of each fantasy. The fantasies are bizarre, and encompass a range of unusual and somewhat comical activities. It seems the movie seeks to disgust you and yet feel a certain pity for the characters. Each one involves a measure of pain to match the pleasure derived from it. In every act there is a heightened awareness of sensory reception, through exploration of various stimuli. A couple of the characters use costumes to escape and some simply relish the pleasure of unusual sensations. Somehow the fantasies mesh with realities in a bewildering and thought-provoking ending that leaves you speculating on the possibilities of the next conspiracy.
By the time the lights came on, all but one of my companions had made use of the exit, and I walked back to the dorm with my remaining friend. Amused and spurred on to discussion and debate, we agreed that the movie was more than worth the zero dollars we’d paid for it. I recommend this movie to anyone who has ever had the urge to indulge in an unconventional pleasure, harbored a secret personality, or even played make believe. The conspirators of pleasure are out there, and they’re not as rare as you might think.