1334 is, by its very nature, a wholly unique creature. Like a black pearl born out of the twins of experimental cinema and the exorcising of personal demons, 1334 is less of a sequel and more of an obtuse follow-up to 1998’s Pig. Both were helmed by Dutch filmmaker and Cult Epics founder, Nico B. Both films also featured the late Rozz Williams, though in some unique ways. Pig was a collaboration with Rozz, who created the music, artwork, parts of the story and played the Killer. 1334 is a work created from the aftermath of his death and both the literal and dramatic imprint it left for B. Further tying the two together is the incorporation of Williams’ brilliant collage art, often in the form of the Killer’s textbook, Why God Permits Evil, as well as some of his strikingly disturbing sonic ambient work too.
It is extremely fitting that the first shot is a male hand closing Why God Permits Evil, ending what was opened in Pig. Rozz’s quote, “All truth is parallel, therefore, all truth is untrue.” appears on screen. Which is brilliant, especially in this case, since while so many fact-based films are presented so pristinely and perfectly dramatic, as if real life ever functions like that. Memories and events, for most of us, tend to become more fragmented and dreamlike over time. So to craft a film like this that is so stark yet darkly ethereal in parts, is a bold and needed move.
The tarot card for “The Hanged Man” appears, giving instant foreshadowing as we see the Rozz figure (Bill Oberst Jr.), shirtless and wearing a mask of a wretched looking old man with a gunshot wound to the temple, Kennedy-style. There is vintage footage of Rozz’s actual apartment shot before he died, seamlessly blended in with the new footage, featuring an old desk with a typewriter, a fetal-looking stuffed pig, a black bird and a large Nazi flag. He hangs himself and his body becomes slightly transparent, perhaps indicating him dying and crossing into the next plane. As the act is done, a dark-haired man (Dante White-Aliano) tries to call.
The next tarot card appears, “Le Maison Diev” or The Tower. The music grows even more high strung, as the young man showers. His lover, the first of the number of lovely raven haired women, sleeps, her pregnant belly exposed. The phone rings and the news of suicide is broken. He falls down from shock and grief, as his partner starts to weep. This whole sequence is shot in dreamy, Maya Deren-esque b&w, in contrast to the more gritty look of the scenes with Rozz. It’s only fitting that the next shot, a naked baby crying in the grass, looks more like the grittier scenes.
What exactly does the crying baby mean? Is it a metaphor for how the man feels? Is is something more literal? Especially given that after this scene, there is no mention of the baby again. But that is the beauty of the nature of 1334. If all works of art came with automatic cliff notes, then where’s the fun in that? The decision is always subjective.
The man gets into a heated argument with his lover, now no longer pregnant. Things start to get pretty physical, with the screen suddenly solarized, as a black mist starts to flood through the background. The screen goes back to normal and his girlfriend/attacker has fangs. The sound and sight of sirens start to come through and the domestic disturbance lands her behind bars.
Another tarot card appears, “La Roue de Fortune.” The Wheel of Fortune. The young man, bedecked in suit and tie, sits on a couch while a different woman speaks to him, sitting across at a table. Her voice can be heard, but not necessarily her words, as she sounds distorted. Her face, though, is kind. The film stock gets scratchy again as a faceless man drives around the countryside, invoking strong shades of Pig.
The tarot card of “Death” appears. The young man sits with a woman on a couch. As they talk, the black mist from earlier reappears every time the screen is solorized. They retire to bed, where the woman ends up being strangled by an unseen force while the man struggles like he paralyzed. When the attack lets up, there are marks around her neck.
The young man walks to the bathroom and picks up a straight razor, cutting his own neck. Bleeding, he enters a trance-like state where he meets the Rozz figure, clad head to toe in black Plague doctor garb. With his arms outstretched, he takes the young man into a living version of Flemish painter Peter Bruegel’s work, “Triumph of Death.” The moving landscape of apocalypse and death is inescapable as the Rozz figure is wide-eyed and unblinking, while the young man looks wan and burdened. The final shot ends the 17-minute long film on a powerful, grim note.
1334 is part of a very under-looked type of non-fiction film. It eschews traditional, linear storytelling for a more surreal and at its core, pure approach. Instead of breaking things down by ABC’s, we get a more emotionally honest portrait of what this filmmaker has gone through. Sometimes, the hardest but more rewarding approach is just this, yet so few have done this. Other than Klaus Kinski’s controversial and brilliant Paganini and some of the biographical works of Ken Russell, it is hard to think of such a similar cinematic creature.
One thing of note, like Pig before it, is the fantastic score, thanks to both the archives of Rozz Williams as well as some additional contributions from Dante White-Aliano. It’s appropriately creepy, full of tension and sadness. 1334 is an incredibly brave film in a much different way than its predecessor. In some ways, one can’t help but get the feeling that while Pig dealt with indulging some demons, 1334 is more about exorcising others. Death can be hardest for the living, especially since we are the ones dealing with the aftermath.
Cult Epics has done another prime job, with putting both Pig, which had been severely out of print for years, and 1334 on both Blu Ray and DVD. What this release may lack in extras, it more than makes up for with presentation, from the detailed booklet that includes photos of the script and assorted notes, to the slipcover featuring the cover of Why God Permits Evil in gorgeous color. The cover for the actual disk will definitely look familiar to any fans of Williams’ band Premature Ejaculation, since it is very similar to the art used on their posthumous release, Wound of Exit.
1334 is a beautiful, haunted work that will ruin any preconceptions you may have going into it. This is a very good thing.