How are you feeling about the idea of being abused? Not something, you would call dream of a lifetime? Then how about being raped by a fly? Do not worry if your answer is once again negative, because this movie already covers this issue. “Fly”, made in 1970 by Yoko Ono and John Lennon, both of whom were really interested in fluxus art and began experimenting with various themes, is dedicated to these questions. Yoko Ono (about whom John Lennon once said that she is: “the world’s most famous unknown artist: everybody knows her name, but nobody knows what she does.”) took fly as her alter ego and used it to create this disturbing picture.
The plot or, more likely, the lack of it, is about an unknown woman (starred by an actress, that goes by the name of Virginia Lust) lying completely naked on a white sheet and being “abused” by a really persistent fly. That’s it. And it lasts 25 minutes (which is way too short for a normal movie, but for this one it might seem like forever) with the fly moving from one body part to the next.
A question might arise: what is the point of this movie? As stated before, Yoko Ono imagined that fly is her second side of personality. To understand this fully, we have to touch the subject of symbolism. There are many explanations. For example, ancient Christian lore shows the fly as a symbol of impurity and a temptation to stray from the path of righteousness. Beelzebub, the prince of demons, was known as the “Lord of Flies”. This insect represents corruption and putridness. Even in ancient Tarot, the card of Devil has a fly depicted in it, representing the basic animalistic emotions and impulses. Not only that, but scientifically, the fly is a carrier of viruses. If we will keep this information in mind, we can say that Yoko was feeling unclean, tainted and in this film she shows just that: being lured to the dark side, towards leaving humanity behind and becoming an animal. Although, in the end, the fly leaves through the window, which symbolises that even though it spent 25 minutes trying to “corrupt” woman’s body, the insect – evil failed and left in hope of finding new, weaker victim.
Yet in ancient greek culture, the fly is sacred to the god Zeus. These “monsters with wings” signified omnipresence. And since the flies are everywhere (or at least were, in times, when hygiene was a rare sight), so is divine presence – always nearby, always watching and buzzing with divine energy. From this point of view, the fly in Yoko’s movie can be seen as purifier, consuming the negativeness and evil, cleaning all character’s body parts and then leaving her spiritually clean and perhaps even holy. In such case Lennon’s wife, when talking about the fly as her alter ego, may have meant that she sees herself as some sort of purifier, spending a lot of time absorbing the dark parts from other’s souls (this explanation also makes sense, seeing as John was constantly using narcotics and sleeping with nearly every girl that could move. He was even trying to find spiritual truth and learn more about transcendental meditation in one of India’s guru home, but was thrown out because of using drugs).
Whatever is the reason behind this picture, the film was made in only two days. The fly, which had over 200 of doubles, was collected by assistants and stunned using special gass and then deployed on various sedated actresses body parts. The camera work appears to be basic, but perhaps that was meant to be so. You can practically never see full body of the actress, only the part where the fly currently is. The woman is completely naked and her intimate parts are shown up close, but instead of creating sexual thoughts, it makes the viewer feel shock, like the female character is being abused or even raped. Another quite interesting thing about this movie is the spectre of emotions one feels during it, starting with feeling sorry for the actress, then it moves on to create a paranoia in audience’s mind, forcing to constantly check their own bodies for flies, ending with nervous laughter or even hysteria.
The soundtrack consists of sounds made by Yoko and John, imitating buzzing of a fly, pleasurous groaning and cries of pain. Such technique creates a creepy atmosphere, which is accompanied with disturbing scenes.
On the whole, it is left unclear what was meant to say by this film, but the emotions felt while watching it, make the “Fly” worth viewing, at least for testing your patience and seeing how long it takes for one to start imagining flies walking on his own body.