These activities include singing, bathing, games, selling home-made 'health' tea, and - most unusual of all - personal re-enactments of their lowest moments as addicts. These they videotape, and allow for the impetus to share to occur at any moment. In one raw scene, the elder Gene (Larry Novak) reconstructs the foray into selling sex that lead to his becoming epileptic, the rest of the household sitting as patient observers. Silver also took the decision to shoot Stinking Heaven on a 80s analogue broadcast camera, and the 4:3 ratio and grainy image quality lends further claustrophobia to the aesthetic. The suggestion is that what is on screen might be an edit of the commune's taped re-enactment collection.
What is shown in Stinking Heaven is the potential goodness at the haven that Jim and Lucy have created, and scenes of play in the park - scrapping, picnics, games, etc. - show how each individual could decide that this is the place for them to renounce their autonomy to a higher (albeit not holy) power. Silver's vision of such an endeavour is ultimately pessimistic however, and while it is Ann's presence that creates a negative ripple effect, starting with the departure from the house of her ex, Betty (Eleonore Hendricks) – the seed of the commune's downfall appears from the outset. Natural gripes and personality clashes are evident through complaints about the contribution of each individual to the group. Stinking Heaven comes to be the perfect title for Silver's latest film, as the slightly ugly sheen of the analogue image aptly complements the sweaty, intense atmosphere of addicts on the edge, and the sheer energy of each performance is so potent it almost bursts from the screen.
Harriet Warman | @HarrietWarman