- Commentary by the Director of Photography
- Deleted Scenes
- Midwestern Gothic: The Making of Wisconsin Death Trip
- Essay by Greil Marcus
Wisconsin Death Trip
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Inspired by the Michael Lesy book of the same name, Wisconsin Death Trip is an intimate, shocking, and sometimes hilarious account of the disasters that befell one small town in Wisconsin during the 1890s. The town of Black River Falls is gripped by a peculiar malaise and the weekly news accounts are dominated by bizarre talk of madness, eccentricity, and violence amongst the local population. Suicide and murder are commonplace, and people are haunted by ghosts, possessed by devils, and terrorized by teenage outlaws and arsonists.
Featuring music by Debussy, Blind Mellon Jefferson, John Cale, and DJ Shadow. Narrated by Ian Holmes.
Inspired by the cult-favorite book by Michael Lesy, Wisconsin Death Trip is an eerily dreamlike film about the moral, spiritual, and physical collapse of a small American town in the 1890s. Stricken by economic depression, harsh winters, and a diphtheria epidemic that decimated the local infant population, the citizens of Black River Falls, Wisconsin--primarily German and Norwegian immigrants hoping for a better life in America--fell victim to a rising tide of insanity, murder, arson, and moral breakdown. By creating moody black-and-white reenactments of the horrid events chronicled in Lesy's book (which includes the haunting vintage photographs of the town's official photographer), director James Marsh conveys, through chilling detachment and the subtly sardonic narration by Ian Holm, the impression of sly bemusement, as if Black River Falls was preordained by fate to become a village of the damned. It's both fiendishly macabre and yet strangely compelling, weakened only by Marsh's suggestion (through color sequences of present-day Wisconsin) that things have never really changed since those creepy, ill-fated days when death was seemingly everywhere. Apart from that half-baked attempt at irony, Wisconsin Death Trip is a film you won't soon forget. --Jeff Shannon
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Top customer reviews
Some people are shocked by photos of the dead.
This is not really such an uncommon thing.
When I first heard about photos of the dead I did not
understand why anyone would want such a photo.
There are many reasons.
People who take photos of the dead are not being disrespectful.
Taking photographs of the dead is still a common practice in many societies and cultures. Such photographs are a proof that there was a funeral and that the person actually died. In some instances people want these photographs to send to family that is far away. Some people who are new to this country will take photos and videos of the funeral to send back to their relatives.
Photographs are also taken of people who are ill or in hospital, to send to distant family members for similar reasons.
I know of blind persons who use cameras to take photos that they themselves cannot see. A blind person takes photos as a kind of documentation and a witness to the reality of their experience. See the movie "Proof" with Hugo Weaving.
I found this film moving, sad, funny, and beautiful to watch. It is extremely well-filmed, and unlike other reviewers here, I think it is also very sensitive considering the subject matter.
This film is a must for REAL history buffs (who aren't afraid to see reality) and for all lovers of....just well-filmed films.
And as for other reviewers pooh-poohing the fact that this has photos of *gasp* DEAD PEOPLE - grow up and get some perspective on this time in history, or don't watch! Post mortem photographs were as common as going to Olan Mills for the family portrait is today - any true history buff will already know this - and those photographs were not so much *private family photographs* as they were on display, proudly, above mantelpieces, for all to see. Post mortem photography was de rigeur in a society where death was much more open and most people died at home.
All in all, I highly recommend this film. No, it's not for everyone, but it is an excellent film for some.
One could probably make a similar film in our time, with all the bizarre events of our day. Open any paper.