That said: Tippett’s characters do act in ways that, by sheer juxtaposition, conform to character-revealing patterns behavior. Hoodoo-doll style peoploids stumble around each other, either to complete their slave labor-style tasks or to forcibly take what they want. Everybody turns a blind eye to survive. In some scenes, characters either seem to enjoy or simply accept the daily reality of being surveyed. In all scenes, there’s a melancholic certainty that whatever comes next won’t be friendly or necessarily sensible beyond its basic self-serving function: as long as I can get mine, everyone/thing else can go to hell.
“Mad God” is like a Rabelaisian protest against modern society, which is only weird if you think of the present as a unique moment divorced from the history of our hopelessly polarized, war-ravaged, and ruinously self-absorbed society. There’s no clear signposts of our specific present day—though if you squint, you may spot Putin and Trump dry-humping each other?—as you might imagine given how long it took to make “Mad God.” But there are plenty of signs that Tippett’s movie is, at heart, about how life senselessly persists despite its barbaric conditions and prevailing death-drive.
Tippett’s film is also really funny in a juvenile sort of way, since everybody’s a second away from being squashed by a giant Gilliam-esque foot. The Assassin carries one of many explosives while the Alchemist wants to create a new world that, as we see in a prophetic montage, will probably develop and then collapse. Everybody’s fair game because we’re all subject to the same gory and gross terms and conditions.
I don’t know how Tippett and his collaborators managed it, but “Mad God” feels like a movie that exists in spite of the general working conditions of modern filmmaking. Rather than rush through a hasty exercise in formal experimentation, Tippett and the gang have made the kind of fantasy that too often seems to exist in the magical realm of unproduced dream projects, like Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “Dune” and George Lucas’ home movies. “Mad God” may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it’s going to outlast most of us anyway.
Available in select theaters on June 10, and premiering on Shudder on June 16.