Christoph Schlingensief’s 1996 film Slit also known as United Trash, will knock you on your ass with an unrelenting firehose of disgusting, bizarre, sex, violence, and depravity until you scream “Turn it off!” I know that for some of you such a description might serve as an enticement but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
If you’re the sort of person who knows who Kitten Natividad is, you’re halfway there. For the uninitiated, she is a porn star with some pretty outrageous curves. She was married to Russ Meyers and starred in several of his films. She is a frenetic jiggling avalanche of sex. Who else would Russ marry? Slit comes late in Natividad’s career. She was 48 when she starred in it, but after a lifetime with Russ, she looks quite a bit older.
There is no doubt that one of Schlingensief’s main motivations in making Slit was to shock. Such an approach can often feel childish. How hard is it to shock someone, but Slit is also an absurd satire. I wouldn’t classify it as surreal but the surrealists would have loved its aggressive assault of taboo imagery.
Slit has a plot but it might be stretching things to call it a narrative. A rabble of nazi inspired UN soldiers invades an African village in order to use Africans as fuel for their missile that will be used to assassinate The President of the United States. The leader, played by Udo Kier, is married to Kitten but they do not have sex because he is gay and only likes S&M. She is miraculously impregnated and gives birth to a black Jesus/Mohammad who is repeatedly raped and smeared with shit and/or chocolate by a variety of characters. If you are still reading after that last sentence my hat comes off to you. We didn’t need those bourgeois dilettante quitters anyway.
Shit and chocolate, cum, blood, vomit, sweat, whiskey, and diesel fuel are just some of the things generously splattered all over this film. This tidal wave of chaos and depravity is perhaps what Western culture looks like when it sets its colonialist sights on you. I can picture a small tribal man standing on the beach while a swell of capitalism, pornography, racism, and blood casts its enormous shadow over him, just before it smashes him into the sand. If anything sums up Slit it’s that image. The film is essentially about imperialism. The UN has sent the general to Africa to give them either a new playground or a state-of-the-art crematorium but an African dictator, the Christians, the Germans, and The UN are too busy fighting to get anything done.
You really should be offended by Slit. It would be worrisome if you weren’t. It tries so hard to shove you over the line. You tell me, would a gay man wearing blackface and frantically masturbating a banana while dressed to look like Josephine Baker upset you? How about Jesus being a dwarf with a vagina on his head that spews yellow, partially gelatinous goo in people’s faces. I had to take a break when it got to that part. They were keeping him in a cage and pouring whisky into his vagina so they could use him as fuel for the missile to assassinate the president, who by the way, was Jeff Koons shown fucking Cicciolina in the White House. I decided to turn it off until the nausea passed. I’m sure Schlingensief would have been pleased. Then when I pressed play again the incest started.
At the end of the film, there is a dedication. The screen goes black and a voice growling in German yells “Dedicated to the victims of slowness and the UN.” I don’t think any of the victims of the UN would want this dedicated to them but it gives you an idea of what Schlingensief was thinking. There is a line that is repeated throughout the movie “When you say UN the shit won't hit the fan.”
Of all the horrendous perpetrators of imperialist crimes in Africa, I’m not sure why Schlingensief chose to single out the UN. Countries like Holland, Belgium, and The United States seem like easier targets, or The Shell Corporation, Nestle, or De Beers. The reality of what has happened in Africa easily eclipses the grotesque antics of Slit. You couldn’t possibly make a film offensive enough to compete with the actual history of colonialism in Africa. As we speak the Catholic Church is still trying to stop the use of condoms against the AIDs epidemic that still rages in Africa. If you had to meet all the child slaves that mined the metals in your iPhone you might not think that a dwarf with a vagina on his head is of any consequence. There’s a sentence I never thought I would write.
I had never heard of Christoph Schlingensief before I started to research this film. Wikipedia says “he shaped the cultural and political discourse in Germany for more than two decades and established himself as one of the country's most important and versatile artists.” He certainly was versatile. He worked in theater, opera, performance art, television, and of course film. I don’t know if Herzog knows about this but Schlingensief even built an opera house in Burkina Faso.
Obviously, I have a lot to learn about this man. Apparently, he is best known for the three films in his “German Trilogy,” 100 Years Of Adolf Hitler, The German Chainsaw Massacre, and Terror 2000 but before I take on the trilogy I will need to recover from Slit.
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