9 Jul 2017

Cathedral of New Emotions (Helmut Herbst, 2006)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼


Built upon Helmut Herbst's sci-fi TV movie The Fantastic World of Matthew Madson (Die phantastische Welt des Matthew Madson, 1974) and created with CTP Pro software, Cathedral of New Emotions (Die Kathedrale der Neuen Gefühle, hereinafter CONE) is arguably one of the weirdest, most obscure and out-there animated features ever.

It revolves around the one-time members of a Berlin commune, drifting through the vast universe, frequently staring into the pulsating light of their God hand-shaped ship fusion reactor "as if it were a crackling bonfire". Whilst their eyes "gladden in reverence" (some kinda running gag), you are suspended (or rather, paralyzed) in disbelief, frequently asking yourself: "Am I hallucinating?"

After busty twins James and Jones arrive on their flying waterbeds and an "attractive, but not very musical" young amnesiac, Mulligan, is discovered in a monthly supply rocket from Tesco, we learn that our hippie-astronauts' mission is to find CONE founder and spiritual guru leader who has gone bananas, Matthew Madson. And once they land on his planet, things go from trippy to halo-infection-and-rotating-boobs-psychedelic and you are inclined to believe the script has been written by an advanced AI on heavy synthetic drugs.

At one point, Mulligan is subjected to a bat-shit crazy interrogation and the second to last question which perfectly reflects Herbst's utterly twisted humor (especially when the explanation for Champs-Élysées is taken into consideration) is: "Before they went into hiding, did Baader Meinhof leave you their fridge?" Yes, it is as outré as smiling neutrons and many tropes turned upside down.

To make everything even more eccentric, Herbst has all the absurd lines delivered in deadpan manner by Logox SpeechBox, with the distorted, robot-like voices and woozy space-rock/jazz/ambient/electronic score complementing the intentionally jerky animation. The playful, 72-year old auteur resorts to "outmoded" rotoscope technique, so the visuals appear very retro as if rendered in the year following the original work.

Grotesquely beautiful and drenched in acidic colors, the protagonists quiver in the boundless delirium of the failed Flower Power Revolution, whereby disturbing eroticism meets black hole-caused meltdown and a colony of wiggling penises grown as mushrooms in a foosball table-like aquarium. However, those guys and girls are not of great importance, because "the feelings of plants are older than human arrogance".

Cathedral of New Emotions is available on both YouTube and Vimeo, and you can also check and download its comic-book version here.

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