Quentin Dupiex’s Réalité is one of those films that doesn’t make any sense and yet manages to be oddly amusing. Now, how many films can boast of such an achievement? I think I’m in the minority – if one exists, that is – that enjoyed this French-American film tremendously. Describing this film would possibly prove to be futile. However, I’m willing to make an attempt without divulging any spoilers.
A little girl goes on a hunting trip with her dad and watches him shoot dead a wild boar. Later at their house, while her dad is gutting the animal, she spots a blue VHS tape among its entrails and becomes curious. Meanwhile, in some other part of the town, a TV cameraman working on a cookery show is making his first foray into filmmaking and he has an idea which he pitches to his producer. This idea of his seems like a cross between an 80’s John Carpenter film and a David Cronenberg film.
The story is about TV sets killing people after making them all incredibly stupid. The producer asks him to find a groan that he can use for the victims before they die and tells him that this groan has to be so good that it should win an Oscar. Then there is the sub-plot of the host working on the same cookery show who has a severe itching problem which turns out to be, according to his doctor, is “an eczema inside your head”. What’s funny about this particular encounter is that the doctor has actual eczema.
In addition to that, there is a school supervisor who sees recurring dreams in which he finds himself dressed as a woman. That’s all I can tell you because from here on, the film goes into full-on David Lynch mode (as if it wasn’t already). There are dreams, dreams within dreams within dreams, people sharing the same dream, people from the dreams making phone calls to people who are not dreaming, people seeing their clones and a character thinking that he and another character might be the same person and so on. And in the midst of all this is a filmmaker – a Michael Haneke lookalike – waiting to blow everyone’s minds with his latest work of genius.
All this is somehow interconnected and we may be compelled to reach for our pencils and draw a map to figure out the whys and hows. I don’t know what exactly Réalité is about. It could be about dreams or it could be about filmmaking or maybe it’s about both. But I can say that I got a big kick out of it. This is surrealism at its finest. Most of the “acclaimed” critics out there would disagree with me on this, though. Many have called it unfunny. I don’t think Quentin set out to make a funny film. It is, like I said before, very amusing. It is one hell of a mindfuck film that doesn’t take itself seriously. The experience of watching it is akin to getting stuck inside a complex maze that doesn’t have an exit.