Schizopolis  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Schizopolis (also known as Steven Soderbergh's Schizopolis) is an experimental comedy film directed by Steven Soderbergh in 1996 with a non-linear narrative. The title (literally split city) means 'Schizophrenia city'.

Plot

Although the film does not have a linear plot, a structure exists, telling the same story from three different perspectives. At the beginning, Soderbergh speaks to the audience in a style meant to evoke Cecil B. DeMille's introduction to The Ten Commandments.

Fletcher Munson is an office employee working under Theodore Azimuth Schwitters, the leader of a self-help company known as Eventualism. The first part of the film is seen from Fletcher's perspective, seeing the underlying meaning in everything. He pays more attention to meaning, rather than what is said. He shows less and less attention to other people, to the point where he comes home and communicates with his wife by describing what they are saying. When Fletcher's co-worker Lester Richards dies, Fletcher takes his job as speechwriter. His personal life suffers because of this. He becomes more detached from his wife, who copes by having an affair.

Meanwhile, Elmo Oxygen, an exterminator, goes from house to house, bedding the housewives who work for Schwitters. In each house he takes pictures of his genitals using cameras he finds. Elmo and the women speak in a nonsensical code. Fletcher's key will not work in his car door. He looks around to find that his actual car (parked two spots away) is an exact match for the one he is trying to get into. He goes to enter his car when he sees a man who is his exact double get into the car he just tried to enter. Fletcher follows his doppelgänger home, closes his eyes, and becomes him.

Next we follow Fletcher's doppelgänger, Dr. Jeffrey Korchek, a dentist. He always wears a jogging suit. He is also a fan of Muzak and the mystery man that Fletcher's wife has been sleeping with. Korchek suggests she leave Fletcher for him.

The next day, Korchek has breakfast with his heroin-addicted brother, who asks to stay with Korchek and for money. Korchek says that his brother should not be dealing with drug dealers and that he can get him drugs. Korchek goes to work, where he meets Attractive Woman Number 2, Mrs. Munson's doppelgänger. Korchek falls instantly in love and writes her a letter professing such. He leaves the note and goes home, where he sees a car in the driveway. It is Mrs. Munson, who has left Fletcher. Korchek admits that he has fallen in love with someone else. Mrs. Munson is upset and leaves.

The next day Korchek gets to work and is confronted by a man who says "Your brother, eight hours, fifteen thousand dollars." Almost all of his dialog consists of these three commands. Korchek goes into the office and finds a letter from a law firm representing Attractive Woman Number 2, who is filing a sexual harassment suit against him. He discovers that his brother has stolen all of his money. Korchek leaves work. Korchek is shot dead. A couple following Elmo approach him, to convince him to stop playing his role in the film, in order to become a star in an action show. Unlike the rest of the film, Elmo's storyline moves forward in time.

Finnaly we see the perspective of Mrs. Munson. We move through the storyline, seeing her experiences with Fletcher and Dr. Korchek. As well as her being a mom. The events are the same but Fletcher and Korchek speak foreign languages, similar to the "generic greetings" from earlier. Once Mrs. Munson leaves Korchek, she reconciles with Fletcher and they go home. Fletcher finishes Schwitters' speech. Schwitters mounts the podium and gives the oration. After acknowledging applause with a "Thank you," Elmo bursts in and shoots Schwitters in the shoulder. Schwitters survives and Elmo is arrested and interrogated.

In a shopping mall Munson narrates events from the rest of his life. Then, Soderbergh returns in front of a blank movie screen and asks if there are any questions. After offering several responses he walks offstage as the camera pulls back to reveal he's been talking to an empty auditorium. The film has no beginning or end credits. A man clad only in a black T-shirt appears at the beginning and conclusion of the film, being chased by men in white coats through a field. In the beginning, the T-shirt sports the title of the film; and later, it says "The End."

Cast

  • Steven Soderbergh as Fletcher Munson / Dr. Jeffrey Korchek
  • Betsy Brantley as Mrs. Munson / Attractive Woman #2
  • David Jensen as Elmo Oxygen
  • Mike Malone as T. Azimuth Schwitters
  • Eddie Jemison as Nameless Numberhead Man
  • Scott Allen as Right-Hand Man
  • Katherine LaNasa as Attractive Woman #1
  • Mary Soderbergh as Document Delivery Woman
  • Trip Hamilton as Dr. Korchek's Brother
  • Ann Hamilton as Schwitters' Wife
  • Rodger Kamenetz as Cardiologist




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Schizopolis" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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