E. ELIAS MERHIGE – “SUSPECT ZERO” DVD commentary track (2004)

Yes, psychotherapist this seems like an awfully odd choice to post — even for me. But you have not known the knucke-dragging depths the human experience can stoop to, until you’ve heard this one.

I’ve been addicted to DVD commentary tracks since the beginning of the medium. As a laserdisc aficionado back in the day, it was a rarified pleasure to hear my favorite filmmakers expound upon the making of their films — but ever since the DVD explosion a little more than a decade ago, DVD commentary tracks have become commonplace. Their sheer numbers guarantee that not only will my nerd itch be repeatedly scratched — but an occasional boneheaded track of accidental brilliance will dump itself into the universe, in the manner of that “1000 monkeys infinitely typing in a room will eventually randomly produce the complete texts of Shakespeare” theory, but with a slightly better probability.

Elias Merhige emerged onto the film scene in ’91 with “Begotten”, a silent experimental feature in the Lynchian “Eraserhead” vein, but with a harsher look, and an almost impenetrable mythical bent. I was not a fan of it, yet I know some people really dig it. Whatever you might think of it — it’s clearly the work of a filmmaker given to extreme pretension.

Later, Merhige did “Shadow of the Vampire” with Wiliem Dafoe — and then “Suspect Zero”, a serial killer thriller with Ben Kingsley and Aaron Eckhart that also didn’t sit well with me, mostly because of its extreme pretense and emphasis on tacky, goofball sub-Marilyn Manson music video-style imagery (how fitting, then, for me to later learn that Merhige also did the occasional Marilyn Manson music video!).

I give a big “whatever” to the positives/negatives of “Suspect Zero” as a film, since the real gold is to be found in Merhige’s cloying, super-indulgent skull-peeling DVD commentary track for the film. In it, he describes in extreme detail everything boring psychological “nuance” that’s happening on-screen — which isn’t uncommon for commentary tracks, but he goes the extra mile to describe these details as if he’s calmly fighting for his life in front of a Ph.D candidacy committee. As The Onion’s A.V. Club “Commentary Tracks Of The Damned” review of this track reveals:

Tone Of Commentary

Rehearsed, carefully enunciated, and deadly serious. Merhige treats “Suspect Zero” more like a cultural ritual than a film. He sets the tone with his opening lines: “I did not set out to make a serial-killer genre film. I did not set out to make a film about serial killers. I set out to express something much more deep about the nature of the unconscious, about the nature of justice, about the nature of how the human mind works.” All those hackneyed serial-killer-movie visuals must have sneaked in by accident.

Here’s the full A.V. Club article — very funny shit. But not as funny as the full commentary track itself! Enjoy — at your own risk.

And, trust me — you really, really, REALLY don’t have to have seen the film first in order to enjoy this.

E. Elias Merhige – “Suspect Zero” DVD commentary track (ZIP file)

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681 Responses to SUSPECT ZERO…?

  1. Bill says:

    I thought the film was pretty cool and enjoyed the commentary. But I find it frightening that such a great filmmaker and otherwise intelligent human being actually believes in remote viewing (and there is more about that on other of the DVDs special features. Well, “frightening” is perhaps too strong a word, but I do suggest that he and anyone else convinced they have such powers apply for the James Randi prize.

  2. Rich says:

    Brilliant idea for a post! Can’t wait to hear it.
    You nailed the Merhige thing to the T: pretentious to the nth degree.
    While I enjoyed Shadow of the Vampire, I found Begotten to be a self-indulgent, pretentious waste of time and needlessly boring. Really, cutting any given scene to below half of its length would’ve really improved the movie, overall.
    This share sounds intriguing, though!
    Thanks so much!

  3. Fred says:

    Thanks! I just finished reading an incredibly long article on Hans Jurgen Syberberg and need an antidote.

  4. Omar says:

    Fantastic. Are there any more commentary gems like this? Like commentary tracks that were on laser releases but for some reason never found their way on to DVD?