Film Review: The Gospel According To Charlie
Posted By admin on December 4, 2017 5:34pm
By: Maria Akay
David Bussan’s documentary The Gospel According to Charlie follows the downward spiral of the queer Ohioan artist Charlie and his rise to self-acceptance. For the first half of the film, Charlie seems unlikeable, unpersonable, and socially awkward, all due to the fact of his internal conflict to isolate himself from society while yearning to be accepted by a community. And through the course of the film, not only does Charlie find himself changing but Bussan and maybe even the viewer does as well.
He introduces himself to the viewer through his phallic art - which might intrigue some, or disturb others. The repression of his phallic art in the public manifests as an explosion of penises in his bunker-like home. Bussan artfully interjects Charlie’s otherworldliness and eccentric rants with stunning shots of landscape and pasture, commenting on the actions of Charlie. This presents a nice balance for the viewer who is overwhelmed by the errotic art.
The interesting thing about Charlie is his conscious effort to remove himself from society through isolation in his home and not maintaining interpersonal connections, except through lighthearted conversations with fans of his work. Meanwhile, he looks to be a part of a community and joins a local church, which in the end becomes too progressive for him. He regresses into solitude and into the depths of the world his disturbed mind creates.
As soon as he begins his descent, Charlie no long evokes unlikability from the viewer but pity. The fact that Charlie becomes obsessive over creating a new religion, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the ultimate rejection of his own art persuades the viewer to want to become the listening companion Charlie yearns for. This becomes especially apparent when he pleads to David over voicemail, “It’s a hard week - I want to talk to you, I don’t have many people to talk to, it would be good to see you.”
Charlie beings to engrave stones with stories of characters with conflicts that have no resolution. Bussan could not have written it better himself: the most accurate comparison to Charlie’s identity. Charlie hits rock bottom when he destroys the 15-foot double-headed penis seesaw, the creation Charlie is most proud of. Again, Bussan could not have written it better himself. In the process of destroying all his errotic art, Charlie admits this is a rejection of his past self, inadvertently calling himself a perversion by his own man made standards.
With all the elements presented in front of the viewer: a man with a disturbed past and internal self-conflict - and aspirations to go to Hollywood mentioned twice in the film (at separate points of his journey), the viewer must believe the filming of Charlie’s life was a catalyst for his eccentric actions (even though Bussan denies this).
By this point, the viewer has his own perception of Charlie and yet Charlie discovers the most revelatory detail of the film: Not all religions are created equal. After this realization, Charlie begins his reintroduction into art. But this time also discovers self-acceptance. A person who may be considered by society as out of the “norm”, even by his own self, inspired a change in the filmmaker, to his reluctance. Charlie finally accepts his true self and for the first time in the documentary we see Charlie truly giddy with happiness.
The Gospel According To Charlie is an Official Selection at the 2015 New York City Independent FIlm Festival