, filmmaker Gustavo Coletti has kindly allowed Canadian Atheist readers the opportunity to watch his film Gods (Dioses) for free. I took that opportunity, and it was well worth it.
Gods is primarily set in a brothel of the gods, where the god of our world awaits judgment by the old gods for the spectacular fuck-up that we are. Coletti originally wrote the script as a stage play, and it shows: the entire film is more or less played out in the single location between just four characters:
- God – the god of our universe, played by Martin de Leon
- Fascio – an older god and friend and mentor of God, played by Alejandro Keys
- Venus – God’s friend and former lover, played by Gisela Madrigal
- Angelo – a worker at the brothel, played by Eva Angelo
Coletti could not manage to get a stage play out of his script, because actors and directors kept backing out due to the blasphemous content, or trying to water it down. So Coletti got the help of some Mexican student filmmakers and made the film on a shoestring budget. The lack of budget shows, unfortunately – in one scene, when God and his friends are taking a walk on Earth, Coletti himself has to play God (“in disguise”) presumably because he couldn’t afford to have the actors for the extra scene.
But at the same time, the production is whimsically beautiful. The location – the brothel of the gods – is artistically dressed; colourful, but grandiose and theatrically imposing at the same time, as you’d expect a gods’ watering hole to be.
If you haven’t seen the film, I strongly encourage you to watch it now – especially if this is still . (Just contact Canadian Atheist by any means you please, and you will be given the info to see the film for free.)
I have tried to keep the real spoilers to a minimum, but you’ve been warned: there are spoilers ahead.
It’s not hard to see why Coletti had problems with people nervous about the content. The film is gleefully blasphemous. At one point, Martin de Leon’s God is on his knees snorting cocaine (sorry, “caspa de ángel”, or “angel dander”, and do keep an eye on Eva Angelo as this is mentioned) off the floor. At another, de Leon and Alejandro Keys are studiously critiquing the curvature of Eva Angelo’s bare, upturned ass. At another point Angelo performs a hilariously pornographic prayer, asking for more and longer orgasms. God casually boasts of multiple affairs, including at least one with a cross-dresser, and as he and Fascio admire themselves in a mirror, Keys simulates jerking off to his own reflection. And it’s not just the Christian God that gets skewered; when considering whether to invite Allah and Jehovah to his “naming baptism”, God demurs, saying that Allah is “irritable” – though, amusingly, stressing how much he respects him – and Jehovah is a “racist”.
The really surprising thing is that none of this blasphemy is mean-spirited. Well, I mean, obviously it’s not respectful blasphemy. But what Coletti does in the story is humanize the gods in a rather remarkable way. By the end of the story – and this is what truly amazed me – you even find yourself sympathizing with God.
That has to be the sign of a truly well-written farce.
God – all the gods, really – are depicted as very human characters, with their own weaknesses and foibles. God is arrogant and self-absorbed; in my favourite scene in the film, Fascio is chiding God for degrading himself, and God laughs him off:
Fascio (disgusted): ¡Si te vieran tus humanos! Dirían: “¡Qué vergüenza!”
God (laughing): ¡Me excomulgarían! ¡Soy Dios, Fascio, soy Dios! ¡Soy eterno, nada me afecta, nada me lastima! Soy Dios, ¡La única ley que me asiste es la de mi capricho! En mi comienza la vida, está la muerta. ¿Qué clase de Dios sos que te cuestionás a vos mismo?
Fascio (disgusted): If your humans could see you now… they would say: “How shameful!”
God (laughing): They would excommunicate me! I am God, Fascio, I am God! I am eternal; nothing affects me, nothing hurts me! I am God; the only law that guides me is my whim! In me, life begins; even death. What kind of god are you that you question yourself?
(Note: the translation is my own, and is slightly different from the official translation to read better in colloquial Canadian English. You may prefer the more formalized tone of the official translation.)
God is also misogynist – he rebuffs Venus’s claim that women can be romantic by saying: “Women are mere recipients of the romances of men.” (“La mujer is una simple receptora de las actitudes románticas del hombre.”) And he is shown to be a bit of a fool. He tosses around the world like ball, playing games with Fascio while Venus frets for our safety. He has apparently not bothered to check in on us in “ten, fifteen thousand years maybe, more or less”, and thought things were working out just fine. Much of the script has Fascio and Venus filling him in on all the crazy/terrible shit that’s been going on in his absence, with him in disbelief and appalled by it.
But at the same time, God turns out to be… somewhat of an idealist. Even, dare I say, a humanist. Sorta.
His intentions were – I can’t say much without spoiling, except – very different from what religions traditionally claim they were. And in fact, his method of “managing” Earth is contrasted against the way Fascio manages his world… and even though Fascio’s world has order, harmony, and peace, they are strictly controlled – God even refers to them as “like animals” – and even culled by Fascio, not out of cruelty but as a further means of population control.
(I can’t help but wonder, especially given recent events, whether Fascio’s name is meant to be evocative both of the Latin sense of “I surround/envelop”… and of the dictatorial authoritarianism of fascism. Fascio also has a fascinating comment right at the outset, when he tells Angelo: “Where there are superior beings democracy has no meaning.” (“Donde hay superiores la democracia no tiene ningún sentido.”))
Eva Angelo has earned widespread praise for her role as Angelo, but my choice for best performance hands down goes to Martin de Leon.
But it’s not God who is the focus of Coletti’s script. Most of the critique is squarely aimed at us humans.
God, it turns out, is mystified and disappointed by the way we humans have carried on his absence. He gave us everything we’d need to survive and thrive, and is baffled by the capitalist notion of a wealthy few laying ownership of the land itself, then forcing others to toil on it for a handout. Fascio and Venus describe a litany of absurdities of the human condition, to God’s growing horror. Fascio says: “They still believe that whoever wins the war is the one who is right.” (“Todavía creen que el que gana la guerra es el que tiene razón.”) And Venus makes the damning observation that all our records of war are open and freely available for even children to see… but anything to do with sex is carefully hidden away from them.
But what shocks and horrifies God the most, by far, is religion.
Fascio: Todavía practican religiones y cultos.
God: ¡Oh, no! ¡Todavía con eso! ¿Por qué no me dejan de joder? Les de libre albedrío para que me dejaran de joder.
Fascio: They still practice religion and cults.
God: Oh, no! Still with that! Why don’t they cut that shit? I gave them freedom so they can leave me the fuck alone.
And when Venus describes the concept of faith, God has a blunt, but funny, answer:
Venus: No les gusta pensar, no quieren razonar. Prefieren meditar, tener el pensamiento en blanco. Piensen que así van a recibir una suerte de… illuminación. O que con un click mágico, algo les mostrará la verdad.
God: ¿Y por qué no deducen en vez de meditar?
Venus: They do not like to think, do not want to reason. They prefer to meditate, clear their minds. They think that they will receive some kind… lightning. Or that a magic click, something will show them the truth.
God: And why don’t they use deduction instead of meditation?
God, it turns out, wants is to think for ourselves. At one point he even declares: “I do not love all men equally. And my favourite ones are those who confront me.” (“No quiero a todos los hombres por igual. Y mis preferidos son los que me enfrentan.”)
It’s not just Christianity that gets called out, by the way. Deepak Chopra gets a mention. They also make a reference to – I think – the new-agey A Course in Miracles.
God is particularly upset because, in his mind, he gave us everything we could need to thrive in a healthy, rational, humanistic way.
Fascio: El hecho es que, en tu planeta, les dicen que vos les pusiste los instintos para que luchen contra ellos.
God: ¿Y por qué haría yo eso? ¿Soy un imbécil acaso?
Fascio: The fact is that on your planet, they think that you gave them instincts for them to fight against them.
God: Why would I do that? Am I a fool, perhaps?
And when told that people deny pleasures and destroy the world with a goal of getting into paradise after they die, God cries out: “You’re kidding. I left them paradise. They live in paradise!” (“Me estás jodiendo. Si yo les dejé el paraíso. ¡Viven en el paraíso!”)
God turns out to be a remarkably complicated, very human character that one even starts to sympathize with. He is riddled with imperfections, but at the same time his intentions are arguably good. It’s not God who has failed us; it’s we who have failed. And both from a humanist perspective and the logic of the story, that makes perfect sense – how can our situation be the fault of a God who wasn’t really there?
And there is a lot more in the film I haven’t even started to touch on, including an extended look into God’s motivations for creating us in the first place. And there’s plenty of hilarity and farce – for example, Fascio making the case that if God is going to return to the world to help people in need, the people most in need of help are not the poor, but rather the rich. It’s not a film that takes itself too seriously – when God is granting his miracle to Venus, the camera pans around dramatically… and clearly shows the set and production crew of the film as it does. (It reminded me of the classic scene at the end of Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain (La montaña sagrada), and the way it deconstructs the pretenses of the religious imagery that had been shown all the way through.)
The film comes to a fascinating ending as God receives his judgment. By this point, God has become a figure of sympathy – more human that you’d think – and his response is powerful, honest, and moving. And again, humanistic.
Gods caught me off guard. It was not the film I thought it would be. Despite its title, it was not a film about gods. It was a film about us, and our relationship with gods, our need for gods. It was a farce, no doubt, with some very funny moments, and some gloriously blasphemous pokes at religious pomposity. But it’s a film that can leave you with a lot to think about. I think it would be a great film for an atheist group to screen, and discuss.