In search of the Ultimate Truth, a determined psychiatrist (William Hurt) takes hallucinatory drugs and undergoes sensory deprivation — but when he starts experiencing physiological changes, his wife (Blair Brown) and colleagues (Bob Balaban and Charles Haid) begin to fear for his safety.
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I have mixed feelings here. Firstly, it's a competent sci-fi thriller with a bunch of cool digital effects that still feel fresh even for a film shot in the 80s. But then it goes all over the place with that god-awfull ape scene and the need to transform itself from academic-trauma to a love story about love above it all - and that's just blockbuster fear of not pleasing an audience of romance readers. Tacky.
Found it pleasurable revisiting ALTERED STATES last night after a great many years. Clearly Ken Russell and Paddy Chayefsky represent antagonistic forces, but it is to the credit of the film that emerges from their fission that a high-minded kind of spiritually-keyed ontological materialism merges with camp and irreverent excess. Sadly, the way we end with monogamous coupling as a corrective is highly dispiriting.
This is one intense and visually stunning film. Ken Russell takes us on an intense journey that you can't look away from no matter how much you would want to. William Hurt is nothing short of brilliant here too.
Ken Russell's notoriety should be secondary to his talent. 'Altered States' is a provocative vision of the dangers of scientific genius - in a world where advancement takes precedent and the negligence of risk is a vital variable in the single-minded ambition of an innovator.
Ken Russell climaxes all over the mainstream psychological thriller with insane, inspired, hallucinatory, manic, schizophrenic, visual fireworks! Russell and Chayefsky get up to all kinds of original sin and monkey man shenanigans. The movie is so beyond the pale of good taste or refined aesthetics that it becomes a kind of pretentiously compelling,
intellectual, orgiastic trip. Russell is a visually ravenous madman!
1st hour is masterful, the rest is tonally mismatched due to unneeded violence and laden detours of f/x-heavy symbolism being favored over character development. Otherwise, it would be a perfected exhilarating study of the search for life's greatest riddle: its purpose. Unlike what some claim, there's an answer in the end-- it's simply love. And thus, it flips bleak conventions of the genre and time period around.
"Jennifer? Hi, it's Eddie again. Do you think you could maybe stay the night with the kids? Me and my wife are going out tonight and in case we turn into a vengeful cosmic singularity after a couple of Mai Tais I wanna make sure they have a ride to school in the morning. You're free? Really appreciate it."
It has the same flow as The Fly, although the ending was kind of lacklustre. I really enjoyed the surrealist montage and there are moments where it made me think of it as a prequel to Basket Case. Overall, it's fairly entertaining to watch.