Plot: The Otherworld is centered on filmmaker Richard Stanley’s mystical experiences in a place known as The Zone, an isolated locale within the French Pyrenees. If you’re all familiar with Stanley, it is easy to understand why The Zone would draw him in and here, he recalls his first hand experiences there. But while his personal stories are a focal point of the narrative, the movie spends more time on the area itself and the colorful people who live in and around The Zone. This includes a wealth of historical data and background on the area, which seems to have been a frequent focal point that has always drawn visitors and the curious. How much of this information is accurate is impossible to say of course, but if you approach The Otherworld with a skeptic’s mind, you will miss out on the journey it offers.
Entertainment Value: I do want to open by saying that The Otherworld is an excellent companion piece to Lost Soul, another documentary that explores Richard Stanley’s failed attempt to film The Island of Dr. Moreau. That film offers more insight into Stanley, his life and outlook, which helps frame The Otherworld a little, but it is by no means required. This is like a cinematic version of hallucination or hypnosis, offering a mystical, sometimes off the wall look into one of the world’s more unusual locales and those who seek it out. The movie features some beautiful landscape visuals of the area, the kind of grand, sweeping shots you’d expect in a nature documentary or an IMAX production. These stunning visuals really help pull you into the lure of the area, as it is such a beautiful, pristine locale. The level of polish in the visuals is consistent with the rest of the piece, which might deal with some questionable subject matter, but always retains Stanley’s unique vision of cinema. In other words, this isn’t a program where we just see people talk and recall their stories, this is a movie that engages on multiple levels and keeps you reeled in.
As I said before, Stanley’s personal experiences are a cornerstone of The Otherworld, related to us first hand from the man himself. He and his girlfriend shared these odd experiences, but have very different viewpoints on them. These interviews are quite interesting and it is clear that Stanley was changed by these experiences, as he is emotional and gets lost in the memories as he speaks. The movie also pulls in others to discuss the unusual nature of The Zone, perhaps the most memorable of which is Uranie, a colorful and offbeat fellow who seems to be fully consumed by the mystical energies of the area. He has pictures from porn magazines all over his walls, hangs action figures and dvd cases all over the place, and has a wealth of conversations to share about the incredible power of the locale. A highlight for me was when Uranie detailed how he shattered an occult mirror, blocking off some kind of devil from entering our world. I think all of his segments are interesting, just because you can see the passion and belief he is filled with. Another bright spot was a politician bemoaning the frequent tourists, which of course led him to reveal that Jesus himself has visited his office. These small bursts of humor serve The Otherworld well. This kind of occult, mystical documentary isn’t going to delight everyone, but I think anyone who has an interest in the unknown, Stanley, or cult cinema in general should check it out.