W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism
Region: Russia and Central Asia
Medium: Film Video
Artist: Dusan Makavejev (b. 1932)
Confronting Bodies: Yugoslav Ministry of Culture
Date of Action: 1973
Description of Artwork: The W.R. in W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism stands both for World Revolution and for Wilhelm Reich, whom the film starts with a documentary about. Reich was a Marxist who believed in free love. The use of this footage is to make statements on social and sexual liberation, totalitarianism, and free love in a communist atmosphere. Later in the film one of the characters declares, "Communism without free love is a wake in a graveyard."
It also contains scenes of nudity and explicate sexuality weaved in with documentary footage of communism. As a whole, W.R. is a critique of communist sexual repression. It is not a sex film, but rather a film about sex.
The Incident: W.R. was shown at Yugoslav film festivals, but not released further due to Soviet pressure. The graphic sex was the biggest concern of the Ministry of Culture. Even President Josip Broz Tito had left during a screening of the film, calling it perverted. It also caused an uproar from concerned citizens. In 1973, a veteran's association who had been offended by the masturbation and homosexuality brought up a lawsuit against Makavejev.
Results of Incident: The film was shelved by the Ministry of Culture and Makavejev was exiled until 1988. W.R. was shown in the West, but even there, the sexuality found objections and was cut.
Source: Censorship: A World Encyclopedia. Ed. Derek Jones. Chicago; London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001.