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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

eFilmcritic Archive: "Journey Into Bliss" (2004)



I watched “Journey Into Bliss” with my mouth gaped about two inches wide. I couldn’t turn it off and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I stayed glued to my chair not because the story drew me in and left me on the edge of my seat, but because I needed to see just how much more messed up it could possibly get. At one point, one of the film festival organizers emailed me about something and I replied to him that I felt very scared by the movie I was watching. He replied, “I think I warned you about that one…have you got to the part where the animals get drunk, hump the furniture and turn into time machines?” No. I hadn’t. Am I ready for that?


Look, I’m no stranger to this type of film. I’ve seen Richard Elfman’s black-and-white headtrip “Forbidden Zone” many times and even own the soundtrack. Peter Jackson’s “Meet the Feebles” has become an endearing staple in my video collection. “Tetsuo: The Iron Man” has been permanently burned into my psyche even though I haven’t seen it in over 10 years and have no plans to. I adore these kinds of cult movies, but only if they’re done well. Okay, you could debate the merits of each of these titles, but at least you get the sense that the filmmakers have some kind of vision.


“Journey Into Bliss” also represents a filmmaker’s unique vision, but damn if I can’t get a handle on it. It’s a sloppy, mish-mash of a movie that seems to have been made only for the filmmaker and his friends. Wenzel Storch directed this German import and has been called “Germany’s most daredevil filmmaker.” I’m guessing my negative reaction to this film will be greeted with, “It’s too daring for people like you.” Look, just because a filmmaker is daring, doesn’t mean the movie is good. You could also call the morons on “Fear Factor” daredevils. It doesn’t make them geniuses.


I have no doubts that “Journey Into Bliss” has its audience. There exists a sector of moviegoers who will giggle with glee at the cult movie shenanigans at play here. Unfortunately, the cast put nothing into their characters to make them discernable or likable that we’re left with a movie that is all concept and no personality. It’s as though they took the lyrics to “I Am The Walrus” and figured there was a great movie to be made from them.


Aside from the aforementioned animal-cum-time-machine, we also have various other talking animal characters, though not through the use of CGI. We also have two cineastes thugs who urinate on children, a snail boat, soldiers in blackface and red lipstick, a vomiting bear and…lots of…other…weird stuff. The movie meanders from one odd sequence to the next with poor camera work and animals that could use a little help from Rhythm & Hues to make them more interesting.


While the movie has a wondrous fairy tale look about it that brings to mind Jean-Pierre Juenet and Terry Gilliam (watch that quote get taken out of context for the print ads), the rest of the movie goes right over the head. The story—something about Captain Gustav, his wife Eva and their four little girls stumbling onto an island populated by senior citizen prostitutes and an evil warlord named King Knuffi—can’t possibly be comprehended without the aid of a few E tablets, some orange sunshine, a Blue Meanie, a Bart Simpson and some of the brown stuff they told you not to take at Woodstock. Don’t forget your pacifier.


Okay, I’m sure I got you curious that now you actually want to see this film. You should be curious. Sure, go see it. Join in on the discussion. It’s worth talking about. Hey, I sat there watching it alone wishing someone else had been with me. I’m sure Storch had fun making it, but I wonder if he ever stopped to wonder if his audience would actually have fun watching it? Part of me did, just because I have not seen a movie like this in several years, but there’s the problem: There’s nothing to celebrate here. In fact, this movie skips the party altogether and heads straight for the hangover.


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