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Featured TV on DVD Review: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?

October 7th, 2010

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? - Buy from Amazon

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? was directed by Werner Herzog and produced by David Lynch, among others. You know this wasn't going to be a mainstream film. This could explain why it was pushed back from 2009 before being released direct-to-DVD. Or the explanation could be simpler. It could just be a bad movie. I choose to remain optimistic.

The Movie

The film starts with two cops, Havenhurst and Vargas, being called in to an 1144, which is described by Havenhurst as the code for when someone is really dead. When they get to the scene of the crime, there is already a crowd there, including a strange man drinking from a Razzle Dazzle coffee cup. The victim is Mrs. McCullum, who has been stabbed by an antique sabre. The strange man out front was Brad McCullum, her son, and the murderer. One of the witnesses states that Brad hasn't been right since he returned from Peru.

The movie then flashes back and forth between the current crime scene, which has degraded into a hostage situation, and the events that led to the crime. From his fiancee we learn what happened in Peru. Brad was part of a group of six men who went to Peru to go kayaking, but it was the rainy season and brad didn't like the look of the river and decided not to go. The rest did, which was a decision that turned out to be fatal. Brad was involved in a theater production, and from his director we learn of how he came into possession of the murder weapon and the trip to his Uncle Ted. The flashbacks lead up closer and closer to the day of the crime as the two detectives try to figure out why it happened and how they can stop the hostage situation from turning deadly.

I'm trying to judge this movie based on the movie itself, but I can't. I tried and I failed. The movie is bizarre and disjointed, moving from one weird scene to another. Had it been made by some unknown, I would have thought they lacked the ability to create a compelling narrative and compensated by using characters defined by their quirks more than their personalities and "film school" camera shots like following a container of oatmeal as it roles down the driveway. However, it's not made by some unknown, it was directed by Werner Herzog, so it is easy to conclude that this film was intentionally weird. He wasn't trying for serious drama and wandered into the realm of the pretentious. He was aiming for little incomprehensible and was right on target.

Yes, it is hard to figure out the point of the movie. But I get the distinct impression that those looking for a point in all of this are missing the point. I think this movie should just be appreciated for the weird trip that it is. As the saying goes, "It's not the destination that matters..."

On a side note, while the film was "inspired" by true events, Werner Herzog described the film as "about 70 percent ... false". I have a funny feeling that's true with about everything he says. I'm not saying he's a lying. I'm saying he strikes me as the kind of guy who would tell you a really interesting story that is peppered with enough facts that are true that you are unsure about what is and is not real.

Case in point...

I have no idea how much of that is real. None.

The Extras

There are only two extras on the DVD. The first is an 18-minute short film called Plastic Bag that is narrated by Werner Herzog. In the film, he provides the voice of a plastic shopping bag as it goes through its life. There is also a 28-minute making of / interview featurette with Werner Herzog and Herbert Golder, who co-wrote the movie. While there are only two extras, there's no fluff here and both have replay value.

The Verdict

Werner Herzog is one weird duck. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? is not his most successful film, but enough works that it is worth checking out for most people, while the DVD is worth picking up for fans of the director.


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