Walerian Borowczyk, or Boro, is a literally box-headed kid growing up with a fascination for bird watching - or rather women watching. His fascination for this and his bizarre past paves the way for his art when he's given a film camera.
French filmmaker Bertrand Mandico wears his influences on his sleeve, and "Boro in the Box" might be the most obvious example of this. Not only does it share themes and styles of filmmakers, but this short film is literally about a character named Walerian Borowczyk (Boro for short). And its a Polish filmmaker. To make this clear, this is a surreal fantasy tale inspired by Walerian Borowczyk, based on him as a filmmaker. The character is a lot more appropriately called Boro, as the name Walerian Borowczyk does induce confusion (which may or may not be good). "My name is Walerian Borowczyk. I am a dead Polish filmmaker" says the female voice portraying Boro.
The short film tells us about the conception, the birth, the childhood and the youth of Boro, a kid with a box for a head. He was conceived when his father pretty much raped his mother. I say "pretty much" because the strange ordeal became quite mutual. She's pregnant on their wedding day and ends up falling from a rock and rolling down a hill. Little Boro survives the fall, but her belly has taken a squared shape. Boro is born into the world one random day when his mother is taking care of a horse. As a baby he's just a box with a hole in it. She puts her breast into the whole to feed him. He slowly grows up - as a kid he has arms and legs sticking out of the box. When he finally gets older his head is the box. Boro gets a fascination for watching "birds" early on after joining his father on his trips. The trips consist less of watching birds and more of watching nude women in the woods - something which becomes a huge part of his life and upcoming career. His career as a filmmaker, artist and pornographer. It's initiated after he receives a large, box-y film camera which fittingly enough resembles himself.
These 40 minutes cover even more than the above, and it was made possible because it jumps into phases of Boro's life, done by naming the chapters after letters. Every chapter has a word starting with the next letter of the alphabet ("Aforetime", "Beastiality", etc. - they don't seem as forced in French as they do in English.) I wouldn't say that the use of chapters help the film, but it does push forward some of the meaning and might lead some in the right direction.
There is no doubt that this is a visual short film. The story it tells is in no way as appealing as the visuals. That doesn't mean it's bad - the story does have some interesting things going on, such as the reason for Boro's future obsession in vulgar and bizarre filmmaking comes from seeing his mom sneak out at night to be with her lover - a horse. The box-headed Boro might be a symbol, and more so when the camera is introduced and shares the shape, but it does add a darkly comedic tone to the movie. There are several things that makes it lean towards black comedy, and it works really well. Seeing as some ideas and visuals are so wild and out there, having it be bizarrely comedic helps us accept them. But then there are the actually dark, erotic and twisted visuals which keeps it far from a family friendly viewing. There's plenty of nudity, hints towards extreme perversions, etc. Nothing we haven't seen before, however.
"Boro in the Box" is a much recommended short film that manages to blend styles from many greats such as Walerian Borowczyk, Andrei Tarkovsky and Jan Svankmajer. It's a visual treat, yet with a intriguing story (as strange as it is). It seems like Bertrand Mandico is a name just waiting to explode, as it currently resides in obscurity except for select festivals. No doubt the trailers have been raising eyebrows, and I think it's justified. "Boro in the Box" was more than I had hoped for. It's a great blend of pretentiousness, erotica and darkly comedic surrealism.