Movie Review: ‘In the Basement’

An opera-singing gunslinger, a Hitler-loving brass band, a hunter of exotic species, passionate devotees of S&M, and a woman with a doll obsession; what do these people have in common? Nothing. Except, they have secret passions that are featured in Director Ulrich Seidl’s new documentary, In the Basement. It is a valiant attempt to showcase a darker side of the human psyche, but in the end, the film becomes a dull hodgepodge of random fetishes that you may not have known existed… or you may wish they had remained in the basement.

Some of the participants talk to the camera about their obsessions, some show off their obsessions or how they participate, and other shots just show the various participants staring at the camera. These aren’t exclusive participants, for example, the hunter talks about how he has tasted just about every type of meat and shows off his collection. The S&M devotees talk about their lovers and/or activities, but the audience also gets a peek at these activities; note that there is nudity and sexual activity in this film. On the other hand, I do not recall the woman with an obsession with dolls talking to the camera; the reason behind her obsession is left a mystery.

The cinematography is an interesting choice. A majority of the movie is shot with a single unmoving camera kind of like the audience is watching a stage play or hidden camera security footage. It gives the impression that what is happening on screen is actually real. That does have drawbacks, though, when the participants are just sitting staring at the camera. These segments got old quickly and left me wondering if anything was going to happen.

I have no problem with the secret obsessions of others, to each his own so long as you are not hurting someone else (who does not want to be hurt). I, however, do not think there was a need to bring a bunch of them out of the basement for a single film. One minute, you could be watching drunk Hitler fans discussing how one of their band mates is getting home, the next you could be looking at a nude man’s behind; some of the cuts are a bit jarring. Any one of these participants or topics might have benefited from more time or a separate movie.

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