Written and Directed by Jonathan Caouette
Screening at FACT from 12th-18th May 2005
Tarnation is almost certainly unlike any film you have ever seen. It
is a true story of Jonathan Caouette’s first thirty-one years, spliced
together from photos, home movies on cheap hand-held cameras, answerphone
messages and the music that has been a soundtrack to his life. Though
Caouette’s existence has been extraordinary, it leaves the viewer
wondering what their life would be like on the big screen.
In Tarnation we see Jonathan perform on the grand stage that is his life.
As a toddler, Caouette saw his schizophrenic single mother (Rose LeBlanc)
being raped by a stranger, and was then palmed-off to abusive foster parents
as she rotted in mental institutions. Finally he ended-up with his grandparents
Adolph and Rosemary, but they had their own problems and seemingly couldn’t
give him the attention he needed. Jonathan started sneaking into gay clubs
at the age of twelve, then got involved in drugs and…well, you get
the general idea.
It is as if Caouette has opened up a vein and is bleeding before our
eyes, such are the horrors on show here. But presumably he found it helpful
to knock twenty years of suffering into shape on an Apple Mac, leaving
us with eighty-eight minutes of truly nightmarish voyeurism. It is a strange
kind of person who would pay money to put themselves through this ordeal
of a film, but then people are strange. Personally, I thought it was great.