7.0/10
1,186
18 user 18 critic

Savage Messiah (1972)

Biographical film of the life of French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.

Director:

Ken Russell

Writers:

Christopher Logue (screenplay), H.S. Ede (book)
Reviews
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. See more awards »

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Mahler (1974)
Biography | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Composer Gustav Mahler's life, told in a series of flashbacks as he and his wife discuss their failing marriage during a train journey.

Director: Ken Russell
Stars: Robert Powell, Georgina Hale, Lee Montague
Comedy | Musical | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

When the leading lady of a low-budget musical revue sprains her ankle, the assistant stage manager is forced to understudy and perform in her place, becoming a star and finding love in the process.

Director: Ken Russell
Stars: Twiggy, Christopher Gable, Max Adrian
Valentino (1977)
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

In 1926, the tragic and untimely death of a silent screen actor caused female movie-goers to riot in the streets and in some cases to commit suicide - that actor was Rudolph Valentino. ... See full summary »

Director: Ken Russell
Stars: Rudolf Nureyev, Leslie Caron, Michelle Phillips
Lisztomania (1975)
Biography | Comedy | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

Composer and pianist Franz Liszt attempts to overcome his hedonistic life-style while repeatedly being drawn back into it by the many women in his life and fellow composer Richard Wagner.

Director: Ken Russell
Stars: Roger Daltrey, Sara Kestelman, Paul Nicholas
Biography | Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Piano teacher Peter Ilych Tchaikovsky struggles against his homosexuality by marrying, but unfortunately he chooses a nymphomaniac whom he cannot satisfy.

Director: Ken Russell
Stars: Richard Chamberlain, Glenda Jackson, Max Adrian
Women in Love (1969)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Two best friends fall in love with a pair of women, but the relationships soon go in very different directions.

Director: Ken Russell
Stars: Alan Bates, Oliver Reed, Glenda Jackson
The Trap (1966)
Adventure | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A fur trapper takes a mute girl as his unwilling wife to live with him in his remote cabin in the woods.

Director: Sidney Hayers
Stars: Rita Tushingham, Oliver Reed, Rex Sevenoaks
Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

Ten people are invited to a hotel in the Iranian desert, only to find that an unseen person is killing them one by one. Could one of them be the killer?

Director: Peter Collinson
Stars: Charles Aznavour, Maria Rohm, Adolfo Celi
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

The professional and romantic misadventures of an advertising executive in 1960s swinging London.

Director: Michael Winner
Stars: Oliver Reed, Orson Welles, Carol White
The Rainbow (1989)
Action | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

A young woman deals in her own personal way with the trials of adolescence and young adulthood in early 1900s England.

Director: Ken Russell
Stars: Sammi Davis, Amanda Donohoe, Paul McGann
Tommy (1975)
Drama | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

A psychosomatically deaf, dumb and blind boy becomes a master pinball player and, subsequently, the figurehead of a cult.

Director: Ken Russell
Stars: Roger Daltrey, Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed
The Big Sleep (1978)
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

Grizzled American private detective in England investigates a complicated case of blackmail turned murder involving a rich but honest elderly general, his two loose socialite daughters, a pornographer and a gangster.

Director: Michael Winner
Stars: Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles, Richard Boone
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Dorothy Tutin ... Sophie Brzeska
Scott Antony ... Henri Gaudier
Helen Mirren ... Gosh Boyle
Lindsay Kemp ... Angus Corky
Michael Gough ... M. Gaudier
John Justin ... Lionel Shaw
Aubrey Richards Aubrey Richards ... Mayor
Peter Vaughan ... Museum Attendant
Ben Aris Ben Aris ... Thomas Buff
Eleanor Fazan Eleanor Fazan ... Mdme. Gaudier
Otto Diamant ... Mr. Saltzman
Imogen Claire Imogen Claire ... Mavis Coldstream
Maggy Maxwell Maggy Maxwell ... Tart
Susanna East Susanna East ... Pippa
Judith Paris ... Kate
Edit

Storyline

Biographical film of the life of French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The true story of a young artist and a woman who shared a strange love. See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

October 1972 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Barbár messiás See more »

Filming Locations:

Bath, Somerset, England, UK See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Russ-Arts See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

The mock "Polish folk song" that Sophie (Dorothy Tutin) sings at the posh dinner party was "composed" (improvised) by the actress herself. See more »

Goofs

Sophie, a native speaker of Polish, is shown mispronouncing the Polish word rysowac' 'to draw': she says REE-so-vak although the correct Polish pronunciation is (approximately) rih-SOH-vats' (with the final -ts' sound pronounced palatalized, almost like -tch). See more »

Quotes

Henri Gaudier: Ah, you'll like my mother. She's wonderful.
Sophie Brzeska: I thought your mother lived in the country.
Henri Gaudier: Oh, that's my natural mother. My real mother is...
[produces photograph]
Sophie Brzeska: The Louvre! Aww, rubbish. 'Pretentious townhouse full of junk stolen from savages.'
Henri Gaudier: Art is made from art.
Sophie Brzeska: That's not what you said yesterday...
Henri Gaudier: That was yesterday!
Sophie Brzeska: Look! You said, and don't you dare tell me I'm wrong, that today's art cannot be made from anything except today!
Henri Gaudier: And where do you think today comes from, huh? Yesterday. Or ...
[...]
See more »

Connections

Featured in A British Picture (1989) See more »

Soundtracks

"Fetes' (uncredited)
Music by Claude Debussy
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
This is the sort of revolutionary creativity that the UK film Council should perhaps be funding
27 June 2010 | by Chris_DockerSee all my reviews

Savage Messiah is not the easiest of Ken Russell's films. But it is for me the one that deserves our enduring respect as well as the most worthy of securing his place in film history. This is in no small part due to the very articulate script by the great Christopher Logue and glorious sets by Derek Jarman; as well as the impassioned performances of the three main characters. But it is to the director that goes credit for pulling together the artistic vision. We could point out many flaws from specific (more familiar) perspectives; yet the overall film succeeds so admirably in its primary thrust that many such 'criticisms' would be little more than evidence of the viewer missing the point.

The story is a loose biopic of Henri Gaudier, an important and exuberant artist of the early 20th century, who developed a rough-hewn style influencing 20th century modernist sculpture. He abandoned highly finished, polished styles of classical sculpture in favour of an art that is raw and passionate. An 18-year-old self-taught Parisian of great talent and rash, grandiose outbursts, he develops an intense but platonic relationship with Sophie Brzeksa, a cultured woman much older than himself. Their relationship is one of highly charged but unconsummated sexual attraction.

Moving to London, Henri takes his partner's last name. His fame increases as he forefronts Vorticism (which has similarities to Cubism and Futurism). But Gaudier's genius was only recognized after his death at the age of 24, falling in WWI, as a French Army hero twice promoted for bravery. In the film, Russell concentrates on the source of his creativity, his zeal to express his vision, the passionate rage that filled him. Brzeksa's antithesis – and in a way his 'second' muse – is the suffragette Gosh Boyle. Fiercely sexual in a very practical way, Boyle is almost (but not quite) Gaudier's 'Kundry.' While he is a very sexual young man, his art, and his passion for his art, fortunately always comes first. At one point when Brzeksa is refusing his advances, he demands of her five shillings for a whore. Although they are almost penniless, she gives it to him. He pays the whore and uses her to pose for life drawings. But Gosh Boyle is not simply a society siren. In a scene that burns itself on the brain, Helen Mirren, as Gosh, descends a staircase of magnificent Jarmanesque grandeur. It is quite simply perhaps the finest nude scene in film history. Mirren becomes the Greek goddess. Visually she epitomises the height of Greek art – that Gaudier nevertheless wishes to break away from. Sex with Brzeksa (if it ever happened) would be a bonding at the creative level. Sex with Gosh is simply two nice individuals sharing their sexual needs (with good taste).

Brzeksa is writing a book entitled, "Truth – a novel of the Spirit." Gaudier tells her, "You're a genius!" Adding, "I know that cos I'm a genius too." Early scenes have Gaudier publicly making fun of famous sculptures, grabbing stone breasts and so on, leaping around exhibits as if they are playthings, taunting museum security while delivering a tirade. "Art is sex and art is revolution!" Dialogue comes fast and furiously, debating art, the meaning of art, its value, creativity and the sources of creativity, whether art begets art and whether anything is truly original.

As a sculptor, Gaudier speaks of the stone 'leading the artist in.' But his passion for the work is like the fusion of hydrogen and oxygen, creativity exploding on the viewer with unstoppable force. He is the 'mad' artist whose madness rents the veil of the world. One night he captivates a dinner party and Bond Street gallery owner with his ideas. They excuse his atrocious table manners in the name of art, but insist he produce a torso that he has so eloquently described. He arranges an appointment with the upper-class potential buyer at 8am the next day, steals stone from a cemetery, and works feverishly all night to produce the bust. If artistic licence is used to portray 'facts,' it is done to convey the spirit.

A key to understanding the flamboyance of Russell is the work of Antonin Artaud, both his philosophy and his studies of film theory. Artaud sought a cinematic experience powerful enough to throw the viewer beyond their civilised self and rediscover their primitive instincts. Like Gaudier's denunciation of classical art, he rejected the polished result of mainstream cinema that, in many ways, tries to replicate reality or become a variation of the literary/theatrical experience. He also rejects the verité style that can be devoid of emotion. Artaud proposal is diametrically opposed to Brechtian distanciation. Artaud, who was a strong influence on Russell, was the opposite: he would seek to overpower the audience with sensory input and thence achieve a sort of trancelike state. His technique is often referred to as 'theatre of cruelty,' stripping away the veneer of civilization, disturbing audience by revealing the forces of nature. Russell's Gaudier also strips away rose-tinted social fallacies. "You know the public – if an artist isn't miserable, he's nothing!" He prophesises the effect of the war: "If the war comes it will kill the artists but not the dealers." The enthusiastically polemic tone can be tiring for the viewer. There are points where we want to sympathise with his critics and tell him to "shut up and grow up." We would like Russell to offer up Gaudier for our delectation in more traditional or intellectual style. But to do that would not only be untrue to Gaudier and the creative spirit described. It would be untrue to Russell.

This self-financed film was a commercial disaster for Russell. Yet he still describes it as his best film and the one for which he would most wish to be remembered. If that is to happen, it will, at some point, need to become more readily available.


11 of 12 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 18 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Action and Adventure Titles With Prime Video

Explore popular action and adventure titles available to stream with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed