The Shout (Skolimowski, 1978)

Extreme sound acts as both savior and reaper in Jerzy Skolimowski’s The Shout, a thrilling and disjointed oddity following a Caligari-infused nightmare that springs from the ruins of one man’s broken mind. That disturbed gentlemen is Crossley (Alan Bates), a genius mental patient misremembering his life story to an unsuspecting visitor (Tim Curry). As with his Deep End, Skolimowski paints in heightened brush strokes, using a diabolically layered sound design to drift in and out of scenes as if his characters are on a permanent acid trip. And in a way, all of them are.

Like the best work of Alejandro Jodorwsky, The Shout exists in a hyperbolic state, crashing unsettling images and sounds together to construct a completely unpredictable universe. Skolimowski seems to be obsessed with sexual control, or specifically the man’s role in dominating the woman. Metaphors and symbols abound, but here they provide little explanation or justification for Crossley’s contorted vision of the world. His scream carries the power to destroy lives at will, yet his educated prose speaks only half truths at best. This dichotomy defines The Shout, making it crackle with a singular tension.

The striking end result is almost moot. Skolimowski lives and breathes in between horrific moments, forcing the viewer to construct our own version of the Crossley’s changing memory. There’s a motif of extreme close-ups here that appears to be at odds with the muted and numb facial expressions of Deep End. Yet each story feels born of the same mind, connected by an unnerving desire to force the world into submission. Sex, power, faith, and happiness must be controlled, and the cinema of Jerzy Skolimowski introduces characters who despite their best intentions, destroy the very people and ideas they love the most. For Crossley, his intense senses deafen the only happy memories that spell his salvation.


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