W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism

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W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism
Wr mysteries of the organism dvd.jpg
DVD cover of the movie
Directed by Dušan Makavejev
Produced by Dušan Makavejev
Written by Dušan Makavejev
Music by Bojana Marijan
Cinematography Aleksandar Petković
Pega Popović
Edited by Ivanka Vukasović
Release date
  • 1971 (1971)
Running time
85 min.
Country Yugoslavia
West Germany
Language Serbo-Croatian

W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (Serbian: W.R. – Misterije organizma, W.R. – Мистерије организма) is a 1971 film by Serbian director Dušan Makavejev (born 1932) that explores the relationship between communist politics and sexuality, as well as presenting the controversial life and work of Austrian-American psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957). The film's narrative structure is unconventional, intermixing fictional and documentary elements.

After initial screenings, both in and out of Yugoslavia, W.R. was banned in that country for the next 16 years. Makavejev was subsequently indicted there on criminal charges of "derision" towards "the state, its agencies, and representatives" after he made intemperate remarks to a West German newspaper about the ban.[1] His exile from his home country then became permanent until the end of the regime.


The film intercuts documentary footage and clips from other films — notably the Stalinist propaganda film The Vow (1946) — with an imaginative and satirical narrative about a highly political Yugoslav woman who seduces a visiting Soviet celebrity ice skater. Despite different settings, characters and time periods, the different elements produce a single story of human sexuality and revolution through a montage effect.

The woman, Milena, violates her proletarian convictions (and rejects the sexual advances of a worker) by pursuing a Joseph Stalin-like celebrity ice skater — Vladimir Ilyich (Lenin's first and middle names) — who represents both class oppression and corruption from the West into communist beliefs. She succeeds, with difficulty, in sexual consummation, but V.I. is unable to reconcile his inner conflicts and ends the encounter by decapitating her. Distraught, V.I. sings a Russian song after the murder: "François Villon's Prayer" by Bulat Okudzhava.


Tuli Kupferberg
Poet and performance artist Tuli Kupferberg (1923–2010) of band The Fugs, dressed as a soldier, parodies war and the sexual nature of man's fascination with guns by stalking affluent New Yorkers on the street and masturbating his toy rifle. As part of the climax of the film, the gun masturbation is intercut with other orgasmic sequences. This segment highlights Reich's ideas that sexual frustration and violence are connected.

Artist Betty Dodson (born 1929) discusses her experiences in drawing acts of masturbation, as well as her discussions within consciousness raising groups about female sexual response. The Dodson sequences are relatively straight forward documentary interviews; Dodson's large scale drawing of a man masturbating dominates the background of the shots. This segment illustrates a more free attitude toward sexuality.

Nancy Godfrey is an artist who makes a cast of Jim Buckley's erect penis as a documentary part of the film. This scene was a point of contention for the censors. On UK video prints Buckley's penis is covered with psychedelic colors added in editing (the cinema version was unusually passed fully uncut). Godfrey proved her sexual contact with a famous man by casting his erect penis, and is among a loose group of practitioners called Plaster Casters.

Jackie Curtis
Jackie Curtis (1947–1985), one of Andy Warhol's entourage and occasional film star, is shown on the streets of New York enjoying an ice cream cone with a partner. Curtis' appearance highlighted Reich's theories of gender and sexuality.

Screw is an "underground" magazine that often focused on sexual issues. The film only shows one scene of Screw magazine, where editors work in the nude.

Alexander Lowen
The film also features a rare on-screen interview with neo-Reichian therapist Alexander Lowen (1910–2008), the founder of bioenergetic analysis, during a therapy session, including scream treatment.

Reich's daughter Eva (1924–2008) appears on camera, speaking about the high accuracy of her father's work and the sickness of contemporary life.

The Orgonon, Reich's last home and lab near Rangeley, Maine, USA, is seen with brief shots of the interior and exterior, including a cloudbuster.

A couple of scenes in the film are re-stagings of scenes from Sergei Eisenstein films, to allude to a moment of more pure (truthful) film making in the Soviet Union.

Shots of the incinerator in which Reich's books were burned in New York City are included.



W.R. won acclaim from critics at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971, but due to the state ban was shown only in a few selected audiences in Yugoslavia for the next several years.


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