I watched it so you don't have to and, despite struggling to keep my eyes open at times, I lasted to the very end which is more than can be said for any other person at the screening (at Sadie Coles HQ, Kingly Street) I attended.
It had all started so promisingly as well. The large room stuffed full of props (that would later appear in the film) and layed out in a labyrinthine style was fun, and atmospheric, to wander around. Well lit too.
Blankets demarcated the various 'rooms' and pullovers hung from the ceiling interacting with sculptures made of such unlikely, if evocative, materials, as fur, lace, playing cards, cigarettes, eggs, earbuds, fake blood, dried fruit, bone, and antlers. Like Helen Marten's work I had no idea what it all meant but it looked good. As you can see:-
Black monochrome in showdown
The coffin 21 gram
See what happens when you fuck a stranger up the ass
Painful sweet face
The coffin 21 gram (detail)
Pleasant enough as this was the main course, the film itself, Hell's Bells, was way too long and way too pretentious to hold my, or anyone else's it seems, attention. I've said before that if you're a truly good video artist then make films. Like Steve McQueen does.
I don't think Bock's got it in him. The story, what little there purports to be, features the arrival of a stranger (played by Bibiana Beglau) and a deaf child in a very unrealistic looking, and German speaking, Wild West town. Like an Alton Towers shooting range transplanted to Tombstone-by-the-Rhine or something.
There's a tortured priest (well, of course there is), a bordello full of seemingly drugged up nymphs, and a flamboyant jester-cum-villain played by Lars Eidinger (recently seen both in Personal Shopper and SS-GB) who hams it up with just the right amount of disregard for any flimsy screenplay he may or may not have been given.
The deaf child is supposed to be the centre of the piece and, somehow, we're supposed to believe that all the violence, and even a little retribution, stems from something within her. But it's simply not done well enough to care so when someone dies or pulls a bullet from their flesh you find yourself simply checking the time and wondering what you might have for tea later. Surely not Bock's intention.
All the talk of bodily fluids and the extreme close up of a flaccid wrinkled penis served only to underwrite the sixth form nature of this project. But a sixth form project writ large and underscored with a serious budget.
On the day that Theresa May triggered Article 50 I'd felt good that I was supporting the work of a fellow EU national. John Bock, however, gave little but fart noises and mock shock in return. Maybe it's all us Brits deserve. Bollocks zu Hollenglocken, balls to Hell's Bells, and big hairy bollocks to Brexit.