12 men are recruited by a scholar claiming to be an apostle to Socrates and Plato, to explore death. Gathered together in his secluded house with his wife by his side, the scholar engages the men in philosophical discussions and pushes them to their limits as he challenges their senses and boundaries.
If that description of the film’s plot seems short, it’s because there’s not a great deal of substance to controversial film-maker Scud’s latest film. Known for showcasing the male nude through his work, Scud packs the nudity and sex into ‘Apostles’ at the expense of pretty much anything else. Within minutes of the film starting, we watch one of the young men lying on his bed and masturbating until he climaxes. It brings into question whether the audience is watching porn or art, and that question comes up time-and-time again as the film progresses.
Much of ‘Apostles’ is centred around philosophical discusses between the scholar and the men he’s brought into his home. Between discussions, the viewer is frequently taken to sexual encounters between the men, who for the most part are nude throughout the film. While the sex scenes may be a draw to some viewers, the lack of a coherent story behind what’s unfolding on screen will prove problematic to most. The film jumps between flashbacks and the present, and it’s hard to know what timeline you’re in for a lot of the film. Towards the end of the film, Scud himself appears in a very meta moment that is more baffling than surprising.
The men are put through their paces, bringing to life stories from Greek mythology such as Sisyphus, the man who was punished for cheating death twice and forced to roll a huge boulder up a hill. Those who know their mythology may appreciate these stories being weaved into the film and told in a new way, but Scud’s directorial choices are at times a bit baffling. For seemingly no reason the audio completely cuts out during scenes (I thought there was a fault with my screener initially) and the camera is more interested in sexualising the men than it is presenting a linear story.
‘Apostles’ is certainly an unusual film and like all of Scud’s work, it will prove to be divisive. I didn’t find it unwatchable but I did struggle to follow along and understand what was happening. Death is still very much a taboo subject, as is sex, so I can see that Scud was attempting to blur the lines between both to be provocative. Unfortunately, the film isn’t as thought-provoking as it sets out to be and the endless nudity becomes more of a distraction than a titillation.
Cast: Bank Chuang, Teslin, Wei Kai Huang, Qiji Chen, Christopher Tsang, Adrian Heung, Amanda Lee, Jach Chow, Adonis He Director: Scud Writer: Scud Certificate: Not rated Duration: 83 mins Released by: Breaking Glass Pictures Release date: 13th December 2022