When I woke up yesterday, I still hadn’t quite settled into the fact that only ten hours prior, I had replied to Uwe Boll’s email where he had agreed to an interview. I’d sent off a list of questions that I thought were both interesting for me and safe enough for him to answer. Doubt sets in rather rapidly in the downtime between now and the response, so to fill in the time I decided to take a look at what might happen to me if I accidentally insulted the man. Raging Boll is, aside from a nice little play on words of the Scorsese film Raging Bull, a documentary about the time German filmmaker Uwe Boll invited a handful of his critics to a boxing tournament, and proceeded to beat them all into a pulp.
Why he did this, I’m not quite sure. I assume it was the belief that if you can’t impress a film critic with your movie, you could just beat them senseless instead. Boll challenges a handful of specially selected critics to put their money where their mouth is and to face him in the squared circle. The event has since become somewhat of a spectacle, mainly due to the fact that no other director could really get away with such an event. I can’t imagine Quentin Tarantino going a few rounds with his most open of critics, nor can I see Paulo Sorrentino lacing up the gloves to clatter people about a ring for a few rounds.
The most inviting aspect of the documentary is that it isn’t just about the boxing tournament. It’s closer to that of a brief glimmer into the life of Boll. We follow him as he pitches In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale to various distributors, all the while recounting his career and his vilification in movie going circles. It seems to have taken its toll on him somewhat, and we receive plenty of scenes showing Boll with a few tears in his eyes or ominously quieter than his usually confident and abrasive self. He still has such scenes where he demands respect from his peers and audiences, but there’s a bit of me that can’t help but understand where he’s coming from.
Director Dan Lee West manages to capture this tone rather well throughout a consistently enjoyable documentary. We spend a lot of time with Boll, who speaks with a general openness about his passions for film, detailing a surprisingly well-educated background in classics and camera technique. The divide between his knowledge and his own craft becomes a minor focus of the piece, especially when we see Boll talk in detail of his past films, intercut with scenes that show him struggling to pitch his first and only big budget production.
Aside from being a cosy documentary on a filmmaker that has received his fair share of abuse, Raging Boll doesn’t dissect its subject matter all that well. Certainly a documentary made for already established fans or haters of Boll’s work, and I can see this being a tad difficult or hard to engage with for those that don’t have even the most fickle of appreciation for his varyingly strange body of work. Still, if you do find yourself in the camp of being a fan then it’s a valuable enough time, showing the behind the scenes ructions of a few of his films.