- 1 hr 41 min
In the film Rhinoceros, directed by Tom O'Horgan and released in 1974, we see a surreal and absurd story set in a small French town where the inhabitants start turning into rhinoceroses. The movie is based on the play by Eugene Ionesco and stars Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, and Karen Black. The film begins with Berenger (Mostel), a drunkard who is late for work at a local newspaper. He meets up with his friend Jean (Wilder), who tells him about a strange event that happened the day before, where a rhinoceros was seen running through the town. Berenger is skeptical, but as the film progresses, we see more and more people turning into rhinoceroses, including co-workers and authority figures.
Berenger is one of few who do not succumb to this transformation, and he becomes more and more isolated as his friends and loved ones turn away from him. He struggles to maintain his identity and individuality as the film becomes more and more surreal, with rhinoceroses wreaking havoc in the town and parading through the streets.
One of the main themes of the film is conformity, and how people can be driven to it by fear and a desire to fit in. The transformation into rhinoceroses is a metaphor for the loss of individuality and the destruction of human dignity that can occur in a society where people blindly follow the herd.
Another theme of the film is the nature of reality and how our perceptions can be distorted by our fears and desires. As the town becomes overtaken by rhinoceroses, it is unclear whether this is a real event or a hallucination, and the film blurs the line between reality and fantasy.
The film is notable for its strong performances, particularly by Mostel, who gives a nuanced and poignant portrayal of a man struggling to hold onto his humanity in the face of overwhelming pressure to conform. Wilder brings his trademark comic energy to the role of Jean, Berenger's loyal but ultimately doomed friend, while Black plays Daisy, a woman who Berenger has feelings for but who becomes caught up in the transformation.
The film's surrealist style is a departure from traditional narrative filmmaking, and it uses dreamlike imagery and symbolism to create a sense of unease and dislocation. The use of rhinoceroses as a metaphor for conformity is both powerful and unsettling, and the film's themes are just as relevant today as they were when the play was first written in the 1950s.
Despite its challenging subject matter and unconventional style, Rhinoceros is a deeply engaging and thought-provoking film that rewards close attention and multiple viewings. It is a testament to the power of cinema to explore complex ideas and emotions in a way that is both entertaining and challenging.
Rhinoceros is a 1974 comedy with a runtime of 1 hour and 41 minutes. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 5.8.