Thursday, March 04, 2010

Breaking Point

Breaking Point

Directed by: Bo A. Vibenius (as Ron Silberman Jr.)

Sweden, 1975

Thriller/Erotic, 95 min

Bo A. Vibenius - the director most famous for that terrific Swedish exploitation flick Thriller – a cruel picture 1974 is a true rebel of Swedish cinema. If you think that Thriller was the ultimate sexploitation flick to ever come out of our cold, dark country, well then think again, Thriller was merely an appetiser before the incredibly dark, sinister and provocative Breaking Point.

During twelve days in December 1974 director Bo Arne Vibenius set out to make a second movie that would break all exploitation movies that had gone before it. With the controversy of Thriller – a cruel picture 1974 in hindsight, Vibenius took things even further than ever as he once again set out to produce a cheap, disturbing erotic thriller with explicit content as that was the grim reality his past failure Hur Marie träffade Fredrik 1969 (underestimated masterpiece really), had taught him. Make it fast, make it cheap and make it gritty! Breaking Point is definitely all those things, as well as provocative, surreal, misogynistic and an utter orgy of perversion.

Buckle up because here’s your dirty quick fix of Bo. A. Vibenius Breaking Point: A sexual predator is stalking the streets of Stockholm – even though it’s never said, it’s Stockholm – and the city is starting to plunge into panic. Office worker Bob Bellings [Andreas Bellis] is provoked and taunted by his young female co-workers. The news reports on the sadistic sex murder that has taken place and they also declare a state of emergency - all inhabitants will be given hand arms to defend themselves against the perverted murderer roaming the streets of Stockholm, and women are encouraged to let the predator rape them so that they at least get to keep their lives. After being sexually taunted by a female co-worker, Bellings stalks a woman he’s seen in a tube station [Barbro Klingered as Irene Billing] and has sex with her. At home Billings spends time playing with his very modest model railway set, before going to work and being taunted yet again. His constant frustration is vented in a series of pornographic encounters with various women with various results – don’t fool yourself, that’s exactly what it is, there are no adult actors brought in for the inserts here, it’s all the real deal with the cast doing their own flesh stunts - some of his encounters come out for the better, some lead to death. This is also where Bellings starts having some fantastically surreal and hilarious daydreams that bring a baleful humorous edge to the material. Bellings receives his legally permitted weapon and spends some time target practicing before have further relations with strange women. Building up to the climax, Bellings is kidnapped by a band of bank robbers and driven out into the woods under gun threat, but Bob the vigilante whips out his handgun and takes them all out before finally shooting down a police helicopter that has tailed them from the city. Finally there’s a surprise ending that you will never see coming, as after taking out the police chopper, Bellings drives to the airport to greet his wife and child back from their vacation abroad. The final line of dialogue leaves the audience with a last chuckle “You know that nothing ever happens in this shit town!”

Filled with provocative and politically incorrect irony, hardcore sexual scenes and ominous characters, and the alternative title Breaking Point – Pornographic Thriller, the movie was obviously banned instantly by the censors (remember Sweden have the oldest board in the world) and damned for its vile content. But this most likely didn’t come as a surprise to the cast and crew, as the most of them used pseudonyms for their parts on the movie. Then again, controversy was probably what Vibenius was after, as there’s no way this movie would have played in its intended form outside of the smut parlours. And if the officials say that your movie is an abomination and a depraved piece of trash, that’s better promotion than nothing at all. The movie was later released after a series of cuts were made, and held its Swedish Premiere in a small town called Borås hidden away out in the middle of nowhere. Breaking Point was never screened on the cinema screens of Stockholm.

There’s no arguing that Breaking Point is one screwed up, funny and distressing movie, and probably one of the oddest pieces of sexploitation cinema made in Sweden. At a first glimpse it may only come off as a sleazy little piece of Grindhouse cinema, which it indeed is, but at the same time you could look at it from an analytical standing point and come up with some pretty interesting ideas, and as this hasn’t been done before, that’s exactly what I intend to do with the film. I’ll spare you the usual rant about how art house cinema gets away with graphic sex, sadistic violence and nihilistic storylines, while the movies made thirty years later are still condemned as filth, and get right to the breakdown of Breaking Point.

If you want analytical critique of this film, there’s a lot of fascinating conclusions to come to, and that's without getting into the obvious Freudian stuff, phallic imagery and all that – but keep in mind that this movie is shot as a cheap, dirty thriller, and these are only my reflections upon the movie and not the true facts and process of thought behind the movie. It’s all in interpretation and instead of giving the movies of the abstract and art house a good going over why not apply that line of thought to a piece of trash. Analysis and interpretation can argue for or against anything, even it we just make it all up as we go along.

In my reading of Breaking Point I choose to interpret the movie as the mental breakdown of tedious common life, or a midlife crisis of Billings if you want to. In this breakdown/crisis, Bob Bellings snaps and goes over the edge into the deep side of the pool and drowns in a vortex of sexual fantasy and depravation. That’s what the movie shows us, but does it really happen?

It’s quite apparent in retrospect that Bellings doesn’t want to be an adult, he can’t cope with adult situations, and his relationship towards women is the same as that of a child/adolescent male. When he can’t understand or control them he vent’s his lack of power by taking things beyond the breaking point by murdering and raping the females around him – but in reality Bob it all takes place in his mind and not in real life. The whole movie is actually one long erotic fantasy.

First lets take a look at the actual happenings of the movie, Murder, rape, kidnapping and fight with the police... it looks like an open shut case, but is Bob Bellings actually the psychopathic rape murder that we are shown throughout the movie? Well I prefer to think that he isn’t the killer rapist at all. Let’s take a look at some key scenes to see where this can go.

The opening murder is all shot in a suggestive manner, no identities are exposed, and no characters are presented. We don’t really know that Bellings is the date rape murderer at this point, and the scene sets a dark grim tone that will saturate throughout the movie. But not until after the introduction of his workspace – and what a boring place indeed, it’s easily to see why one would need some sinister fantasies to lighten up those monotone tasks – do we meet Bob Bellings and the taunting women around him. When Bob hears about the vile deed on the news – delivered with some powerful misogynistic dialogue – most women want to be raped, let him rape you, but the asshole has to stop killing them - he imagines taking on that role. Yes imagines, as that’s my main take on the film. When he hears about the rape killing, he starts fantasising about what he can do if he where to take on the role of this character the news are constantly reporting on. The only woman that he actually does have a sexual relationship with is the woman who he meets in the subway station. Then exchange glances with each other and an unspoken deal is struck. This is why their encounter is non-violent, it is agreed on commonly. The same goes for the hitchhiker, it’s mutual and Bellings doesn’t kill her, instead he get’s a little commemorative trophy of their encounter that returns several times as a gag in the movie.

Now within the movies actual narrative space, there’s the possibility that these women also watched the news report encouraging women to let the “asshole” rape them hence saving their lives. So they play along, let Bob “rape” them without any resistance and get to keep their lives. If one where take the narrative line of discussion further, these two women are quite possibly part of the 82% the government official climbed in the first news report want to be raped. This is why the young blonde girl dies – she resists Bellings, stabs him in the leg, and he chases her in his car until she crashes into the barnyard and dies in an explosion of flames... but again, did it really happen?

To argue my claim, I’ll bring in all the tricks of the trade when it comes to movie analysis, the mishaps, the images, and the academic argument that the images say it all. In the encounter with the woman he follows from the subway you see through the panorama windows that there is mist outside, mist that indicates a dreamlike setting, a fantasy, an unreal situation. It is quite possible that the sexual encounter with the woman in the subway is merely Bellings erotic fantasy as he rides the subway home. The same goes for the hitchhiker. The light plays through the windshield giving an almost angel like appearance to the hitcher, who then gets undressed and seduces Bellings in a triple X rated male fantasy. Picking up random woman and having intercourse with them. The second encounter, with the woman who stabs him... this is also quite possibly an erotic fantasy with the explicit daydreams of the subway woman and hitcher in mind. Although this one is triggered as he stands on the side of the road watching the firemen extinguish the burning car and barnyard. In Bellings mind he creates a scenario involving himself as the rapist, which lead to the accident he is watching. Like a child he makes up a story that leads up to the events he is witnessing. The session with the co worker is obviously an erotic daydream and the three incidents mentioned above can all be considered to be such too if one comes to the insight that Bellings has regressed mentally to the state of a child, or even a preadolescent boy.

To make this conclusion you have to accept Bellings breakdown as the key to regressing to the mental state between that of a child trapped between innocence and adolescent sexual curiosity. In his complex state it’s the innocent child that evokes the imaginary images of the women as Madonna character – yes that the way they all are introduced, the halo like burst of colour in the subway, the glow from the sun through the car windshield, and it’s the adolescent part that plunges him into the sexual fantasy. In some ways it’s the classic Madonna and the whore paradox all over again. Children are commonly ascribed these traits, the possibility of seeing things that the logically thinking adult can’t. In horror films it’s a well used trait, and even in drama in movies like Wim Wender’s Wings of Desire 1987, only the children can see and share the world with the angels that adults cant see. This is also the case with Bob. We all know the anxiety of preadolescence with an awakening sexuality, that’s why all those silly comedies like American Pie 1999, Porky’s 1982 and John Landis Animal House 1978 all have one main goal. Finding the courage to take the step from fantasizing about sex to actually getting laid. This is exactly where Bob is mentally after seeing the women at various occasions thoughout the movie. He see’s them and then engages in his mental erotic fantasies. Tainting his fantasies are also the current events of the murderer, in his confused state, he also ascribes himself with that identity. But as you see it only happens in his head, not in reality. The befuddled adolescent parts of Bob’s psyche are what make him have these strong erotic fantasies.

To further the claim that he regresses into the state of a teenage child, we can look at three individual scenes, the model trains, the kidnapping of the child and his own kidnapping and escape from the police. The model trains, are more than just a metaphor for the circular life that Bellings lives, when he drives his train round, round on the spartan setup that he has, you can see this as a metaphor for his life, filled with routine and daily groove, which becomes more significant when his wife and child return. Those of you who have a little family out there IRL know how fast routine and tradition become part of normal adult life. And that’s fine as this is how our psyche wants things to be. We don’t want change, we want safe, comforting routine so that we at least can feel that we are in control. This is why people flip and snap when say the buss that they always ride to work doesn’t arrive at their stop on time. It breaks the normal routine, our daily comfort zone. Anyhow, with the trains as a metaphor for circular life in general, you can also look at the joy he finds in these games and toys. He smiles the happiest smile of the whole film when he sits alone in the darkness of his presumably basement cranking the generator that drives the train back and forth. He’s like a child with his toys. Also he spends time in bed reading model train catalogues, also a signifier that he likes playing with his trains, and possibly an indicator that Bellings never was allowed to play with these kind of toys as a child, and therefore he’s revisiting his lost childhood as an adult.

One of the most disturbing scenes of the movie is found when Bellings stalks the children outside the schoolyard. With the knowledge of his sexual depravity in mind, because that’s what we know in real time, the insight of the analysis comes after completion of the film, we fear the worst when he kidnaps the little girl from the yard. But instead of a creepy scene we are shown a joyful scene where Bellings and the child drive out into the woods only to binge down on a bag of sweets and have a great time together. When the child says that she wants’ to go home, Bob without any hesitation drives her back to the city. This scene also adds to the claim that Bellings wants’ to be a child, in his child state they do what all kids love the most, eat sweets without it being Saturday, the normal day for kids to be given sweets. Well at least in Sweden, and it’s a Swedish movie so that’s all in the cultural references. Once again, Bob becomes a child.

The kidnapping of Bob, well hasn’t every male imagined a scenario where they come off as the hero of the day? For christ's, sake that what all those war, cowboy's and indians, and cops'n'robbers games we played as kids where all about. That’s exactly what happens here. The freaky erotic daydreams have built up guilt within Bob, and he redeems himself by saving the day. He imagines that he takes out the “Bad Guys” and clears the guilt he has built up during the film. And it’s the same guilt that comes full circle to bite him in the ass when he takes down the helicopter. By making amends, he also clears the last traces of his fantasy by shooting the metaphoric chopper. It's metaphoric because it symbolises the "law"/his guilt coming for him. Now he has a clean slate, the bad guys are dead, the lid is sealed on his imaginative crimes against women and once he’s put an end to his week of fantasy he can return to being and adult and reunite with his family. Finally getting get back into that routine groove we call life.
That final line of dialogue all confirms that the entire events of the movie all took place in Bellings head, nothing ever happens in his tedious life, therefor in his separation from his family he engaged in one long sexual, action filled fantasy.

Bob Bellings is played by Andreas Bellis under the pseudonym Anton Rothschild. Bellis was, and still is, a cinematographer - it was he who shot Vibenius Thriller – a cruel picture. He’s mostly worked on Greek moviea for the last copule of decades, with among others Island of Perversion 1975, and .com for Murder 2002 director Nico Mastorakis. In 1982, Bellis actually won an award for best cinematography on Hristoforos Hristofis Roza 1982. The gun dealer is played by the great late Per-Axel Arosenius, who also starred in Vibenius Thriller – a cruel picture, Torgny Wickman’s Skräcken har 1000 Ögon (Fear has 1000 Eyes) 1970, Arne Mattson’s excellent Smutsiga Fingrar (Dirty Fingers) 1973 and Damen i Svart (The Lady in Black) 1958, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Topaz 1969. His great acting career came to an abrupt ending when he took his own life in a protest against Swedish tax authorities. But that tragic story is something completely different and perhaps we’ll return to that on a later occasion.

Three things make this movie stand out among the usual smut that is associated with this strange little niche. First the completely warped comedic dialogue of the movie. There are some hilarious moments in the movie that add another level to the movie above the sleaziness of it all. It obvious that someone had a real great time writing dialogue that relates to the government experts theories on women and rape, the stolen shift stick, and that enigmatic final line. Second, it’s a splendid fantasy daydream without any other counterparts but perhaps Tetsuji Takechi’s pinku cinema Hakujitsumu [original 1965, remake 1981] – this with my idea’s of it all being Bellings imagination of course, otherwise it’s just a freaky little sleaze flick. Finally the poster art for the film. That poster drawn by Hans Arnold is excellent and among one of my all time favourite pieces of poster art ever. I love Arnold’s stuff, and we own several of his original pieces that hang on our living room wall. Dark, brooding, sensual in a combination that equals the likes of say H.R. Giger and Francis Bacon mixed up with early underground comix art.

So if you are into seedy action exploitation flicks with a twist that give you the whole nine yards and bar no holds, then this movie is definitely something that you need to seek out, but be warned, it is potent stuff. Now I'm exhausted after that and feel that I need to go take a shower and get some rest...


Shot in Widefilm 1.66:1, the only know sources available are taken from the old Swedish rental tape. (Or the restored bootleg version available on the Internet.) Although there is a rumour somewhat confirmed by movie journalist Stefan Nylén in conversation with French director Gaspar Noë, that he watched the film with a French Dub on video in his youth. So somewhere out there, there may be a print without the cursed burned in subtitles, and a perfect source for a hybrid redux that could become the new grail fans of alternative cinema can search for.


Originally made with optical mono, the varied sources present a stereo track, with the English dub and burned in Swedish subtitles.

Here's the opening titles, and see if you recognise the opening theme... remember that that movie was also about things not quite being what they seemed...


Alex B. said...

I love the idea of this film, and am a huge enthusiast of "Thriller". Good to know there are still such gems out there, waiting to be rediscovered.

Phantom of Pulp said...

Excellent appraisal of the merits of BREAKING POINT. I like this film very much, and admire the director's approach.

CiNEZiLLA said...

Thanx guys. Glad you liked the piece. It sure is a mesmerising movie and definitely one that stands out. At the same time that I want Vibenius to make a comeback and really see what he could come up with, I'm also concerned about what he actually would present. Movies like this one, and Thriller, definitely don't have any place in these times of blockbuster mainstream flicks, and god knows that there's not to many directors that have pulled off their old school kind of flicks in modern times with out the movie being terrible. These movies belong to the seventies, and can't really be reproduced these days.

Alex B. said...

Yeah I totally agree, whether we like it or not, that era is finished. Yet it's still with us thanks to home video:)

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