Tarnation (15)

Written and Directed by Jonathan Caouette
Screening at FACT from 12th-18th May 2005

Reviewed by Adam Ford

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.

Printer friendly page