Jon Knautz—director of the fantastic Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer—returns to the genre with Goddess of Love, an intensely fueled psychothriller that dissects a woman in love and the damaged mind it leaves behind. It’s a wickedly disturbing little gem from Knautz, who has not only crafted his best film yet, but one of the biggest surprises of the year. In it, a mentally unstable woman goes down a path of destruction when she suspects her lover has left her for another woman. It’s a terrific recipe for a disaster of a love story and Knautz has no problem going to some dark places.
This movie is a total fucking trip. It’s essentially a story about insanity and the very moment a woman (and her mind) break from reality thanks to love and its certain ability to sink its claws into even the strongest people and tear them apart. And with the film hinging on a woman’s mind breaking from reality, Knautz smartly peels away the layers of her sanity slowly and with purpose. We so often see a completely normal, unmotivated character go batshit crazy just to conveniently drive the plot forward, but thankfully that isn’t the case with Goddess of Love. Instead, the main character—Venus—is on the edge of insanity from the very beginning, progressively getting worse as the film ticks along. It not only creates a believable character, but one that crawls under your skin and stays there.
Because we already know that Venus isn’t in the right headspace, the moment she latches onto a man and falls in love, it’s like watching a car crash with your eyelids nailed to your forehead—as painful as it is to watch, you can’t look away; this woman is already in a downward spiral and the audience gets the lovely task of watching her mind shatter piece by piece. And although the love story plays a pivotal role in the film, it’s more of a device that exists in order to push Venus over the edge, allowing her to get swallowed by her own damaged mind.
But where Goddess of Love really finds its footing is in its ability to blend the real with the unreal, creating a paranoid atmosphere of nightmarish visuals and unnerving tension. Venus starts to hear and see things that aren’t there (or are they?), and her mind becomes a prison of torment that plays tricks on her—a notion that’s made very apparent by shots of fish in a glass bowl and birds in a cage. Jealousy and obsession start to control Venus, so when a new girl threatens to come between her and her lover, it takes us down a disturbing path of destruction that only adds fuel to the flame of her insanity. We already know this girl is going to break, it’s really just a matter of when.
And this is what I liked most about the movie—it spends much of the time focusing on a girl that’s about to break, so when she finally goes over the deep end, the plunge is unreal. This is where Knautz really goes to work, too, spinning his film into a nightmare that crawls out of the darkest corners of Venus’ mind and pours into a scene with chilling effect. Watching her psychotic mind come to life on screen is an unsettling experience because it creates an illusion that desperately wants you to believe that what she’s seeing is real—what was once toying with her mind has now stretched its long fingers over the audience.
Goddess of Love is a wonderfully crafted psychothriller that’s entirely fueled by a damaged mind and the love that eventually shatters it. It’s a film that sneaks up on you, slithering through a woman’s inescapable nightmare and saving its most brutal, haunting secret for last. Knautz has found himself in new territory and he explores every dark corner of it, exposing a woman’s terrifying descent into madness at the hands of love.