×

Seven Servants

If it didn't lapse midway into monotony, "Seven Servants" might have made its mark as a camp classic of high-art folly. This twaddle about an oldster drawing on youth and vitality by having an ethnically balanced bunch of hired hands jam their fingers in his ears and nostrils is just an elaborately embroidered account of going out with a bang.

With:
With: Anthony Quinn, David Warner, Sonia Kirchberger, Alexandra Stewart, Audra McDonald, Ken Ard, Reza Davoudi, Jonathan Staci Kim, John Wojda. (English dialogue)

If it didn’t lapse midway into mind-numbing monotony, “Seven Servants” might have made its mark as a camp classic of high-art folly. A thoroughly undignified showcase for a veteran actor of Anthony Quinn’s standing, this philosophical twaddle about an oldster drawing on youth and vitality by having an ethnically balanced bunch of hired hands jam their fingers in his ears and nostrils is basically just an elaborately embroidered account of going out with a bang. Outside of purely perverse fest showings, paying audience members could be outnumbered by the titular servants.

Iranian-born artist-turned-director Daryush Shokof — now based in the U.S. and Germany — has stated that the story came to him in a dream, which he then scripted with his wife, Juliane Schulze, in eight days. He also has announced his wish to make a sequel to “Seven Servants,” following his next project about a vegetarian vampire. Viewers of this film might argue that he must be stopped.

Quinn plays Archie, a rich old man who determines to increase his inner peace by tapping into the positive energy of others. This he does by hiring a quartet of manservants — Caucasian, black, Asian and Middle Eastern — all of whom are requested to scrub up and plug into his facial orifices.

Tended to by Archie’s comely maid, Anya (Sonia Kirchberger), they remain thus connected for 10 days. Long sequences show the human octopus formation eating, sleeping, reading, meditating and dancing in the halls of Archie’s plush villa, in his steaming pool or in the grounds where camels and a llama graze. Rather mystifyingly, tropical fruit frequently levitate and whirl about above their heads.

Preparing to meet his maker, Archie throws a lavish party, inviting his oldest friend, Blade (David Warner), and the woman he has always loved, Hilda (Alexandra Stewart), to participate in his passage into the next life. In a particularly ponderous exchange of soul-searching dialogue, Bladc bows out of the ceremony. But Hilda jumps into the tub and lathers up with Anya before they both join the boys in the bedroom to straddle the dying Archie. An additional wench (Audra McDonald), who sings a death aria, bumps the number of servants to seven.

The arcane proceedings quite often provide some ludicrous amusement — notably Anya getting haughtily offended when one applicant suggests she should try his finger — but the film’s pseudo-mystical thesis on achieving true harmony in order to approach death as a life-embracing experience basically is inflated hokum. Quinn brings humor and some unwarranted conviction to his role, while Warner, Stewart and Kirchberger appear to have as tenuous a grasp of the script’s larger meanings as the audience.

Edited in short scenes that end in fade-outs, the film is littered with moments that feel like the remnants of discarded plot strands. Gato Barbieri’s cocktail tunes push things even further into the realm of kitsch silliness.

Seven Servants

German

Production: A Das Werk production. (International sales: Das Werk, Munich.) Produced by Stefan Jonas, Bahmann Magsoudlou. Executive producers, Ralf Dreschler, Stefan Jonas, Stefan Jung, Christian Leonhardt. Co-producer, Andreas Habermeyer. Directed by Daryush Shokof. Screen-play, Juliane Schulze, Shokof.

Crew: Camera (color), Stefan Jonas; editors, Henry Richardson, Siegi Jonas; music, Gato Barbieri; production design, Johannes Klose; art direction, Shokof; costume design, Wolfgang Weber; sound (Dolby), Friedrich M. Dosch, Hubertus Rath; choreographer, Robert Weiss; assistant director; Frank Martin; casting, Donna Deseta, David Cady. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 16, 1996. (Also in Montreal Festival.) Running time: 88 MIN.

With: With: Anthony Quinn, David Warner, Sonia Kirchberger, Alexandra Stewart, Audra McDonald, Ken Ard, Reza Davoudi, Jonathan Staci Kim, John Wojda. (English dialogue)

More Film

  • Gabrielle Carteris

    SAG-AFTRA Signs Netflix Deal With Expanded Coverage

    SAG-AFTRA and streaming giant Netflix have agreed to a new three-year contract with expanded coverage for union performers. Netflix has previously employed SAG-AFTRA members under the union’s standard master contracts for television and film and had been signing on a production by production basis. The union announced Saturday that the new deal recognizes performance capture as covered work [...]

  • Neve CampbellVariety's Power of Women NY

    Neve Campbell Seeking SAG-AFTRA Board Seat on Matthew Modine Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

    Neve Campbell is running for a SAG-AFTRA national board seat as a member of presidential candidate Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate. Campbell is best known for starring as Sidney Prescott in the “Scream” movies and as LeAnn Harvey in “House of Cards.” Her credits include “Skyscraper,” “Wild Things” and “The Craft.” Election ballots will [...]

  • Themba-Bhebhe

    Durban FilmMart’s Themba Bhebhe on Diversity: ‘We Are At a Crossroads’

    DURBAN–A new thematic strand at this year’s Durban FilmMart, Engage @ DFM, offers a series of think tanks and in-depth discussions concerning diversity and de-colonial approaches to and models for filmmaking. To head up the new initiative, the DFM tapped guest curator Themba Bhebhe, who has led the Diversity & Inclusion initiative at the last two editions of [...]

  • Durban Film Festival 2019 / Copyright

    South African Creatives Grapple Over Copyright Amendment Bill

    DURBAN–The South African government is planning to update its four-decade-old copyright legislation, but what that means for filmmakers was up for debate during a contentious and often heated session at the Durban FilmMart this week. While the Copyright Amendment Bill awaits the signature of President Cyril Ramaphosa, industry stakeholders remain divided over how the proposed [...]

  • 'The Lion King' Ruling Box Office

    'The Lion King' Ruling Box Office With Dazzling Debut at $180 Million

    Disney’s “The Lion King” has jolted the North American box office back to life with an opening weekend in the $180 million range, estimates showed Saturday. “The Lion King” will record the second-best opening of 2019 — and could replace “Incredibles 2,” which launched last year with $182.7 million, as the ninth biggest North American [...]

  • 'Tomb Raider' Star Simon Yam in

    'Tomb Raider' Star Simon Yam in Hospital After Stabbing

    Hugely popular Hong Kong actor, Simon Yam was stabbed while on stage Saturday at a presentation in Zhongshan, Guangdong province in southern China. He is in hospital recovering. The incident happened at the opening of a branch of the Beijing Easyhome building materials company, where Yam was a guest. A man was seen rushing on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content