(informally known as The Broken Movie) is a 1993 short film/long form music video filmed and directed by Peter Christopherson, based on a scenario by Trent Reznor, the mastermind behind the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails. The film is a companion piece to the band's 1992 EP Broken, featuring its songs and music and compiling its music videos. The movie, roughly 20 minutes in length, weaves Broken's four music videos together via a violent "snuff film" framing sequence, concluding with an otherwise unreleased video for the EP's final song "Gave Up," setting the conclusion of the film's frame story to the song. Due to its extremely graphic content, the Broken movie was never officially released (and likely never will be), but was leaked as a bootleg which became heavily traded on VHS in the 1990s, and more recently via the Internet.
Trent Reznor once said that the Broken movie "...makes 'Happiness in Slavery' look like a Disney movie." and while his comments about the movie have been cryptic at best, he makes no secret of the film's existence.
SynopsisThe film intercuts among multiple distinct visual styles to create a contrast between different timeframes and levels of reality: The "past," shot as a low-quality amateur film, documenting the crimes of a sadistic murderer; the "present," shot entirely in black and white, showing the police investigation of the murderer's crimes and the repercussions of his actions; and the "fiction," being the Nine Inch Nails videos the killer plays for his captive, which have a more polished, high-budget look.
IntroThe film begins with a scene of a person being executed by hanging. The trap door opens and the person drops with a maniacal smile on his face.
The movie cuts to footage of an amateur video taken from inside a car going through various parts of a city (the backwards "n" from the Broken album cover and the title "broken" is shown superimposed as a glass overlay), finally showing a young man approaching the car in a suburban neighborhood. The man is almost immediately shown in the next scene to be in a basement, tied to a seatbelt chair and cleave gagged, while being forced to watch a television that slowly starts to show Pinion.
"Pinion""Pinion" begins in a bathroom. The camera zooms in on a toilet flushing, and a network of pipes is shown leading to a contraption with a large gear system and a pressure gauge on it. As the camera zooms out, a tight, plastic bodybag-like suit suspended in a padded cell with six rods by the side is shown, with the end of the pipes attached to the mouth portion with water gushing in, presumably to drown the person inside. An alternative interpretation that the person bound inside is being fed the "waste of the world" coming through the pipes.
Cutting back to the amateur video, the killer, wearing some sort of leather mask, drags the victim's head back and forces him to drink some sort of liquid from a jerrycan.
"Wish"The video for "Wish" shows Nine Inch Nails (Trent Reznor on vocals, Chris Vrenna on drums, Richard Patrick on guitar and James Woolley on keyboards) playing inside high, caged walls while hordes of angry men assault the exterior of the cage. The band is eventually accosted: Woolley is lifted off his feet by a suspended man, Vrenna is lifted off by a crane hook and Patrick is grabbed through the sides of the cage. The video ends with a brief scene of men breaking open the gate of the cage and storming into the cage with bats and clubs.
The middle of the video is interrupted by amateur footage again with the victim chained to a table with a large wad of dark substance on his face. As the killer is immediately followed to be seen putting his pants on, it could be assumed that it is feces. After the video ends, the killer repeatedly rewinds to the part of the video where Reznor screams "fist fuck" and begins to rub his fist.
"Help Me I Am in Hell"The video for "Help Me I Am in Hell" shows a middle-age bald man in a room filled with flies. He ignores them while eating some sort of steak and drinking wine. On one occasion it is clearly shown that flies also enter his mouth when he eats. The video cuts away several times to show the same man in bondage gear.
This video was blacked out in the most prominent leak; it is now generally believed (although not definitively proven) that this sequence is part of the complete film but was blacked out by Reznor in the bootlegged copy. Reznor is rumored to have distributed copies of Broken to his friends, each with a different part of the video blacked out, so that if it were bootlegged, he would be able to identify the source of the leak.
Following the video, the victim is shown still tied to a table as the killer proceeds to rip his teeth out.
"Happiness in Slavery"The video for "Happiness in Slavery" shows Reznor screaming from inside a prison cell and performance artist Bob Flanagan entering a room, undressing and washing himself, and finally strapping himself into a machine that appears to rape, torture and kill him. After his death, the machine closes up, and the camera pans to a bed of flowers underneath the machine seemingly being fed the man's remains, which have been ground up into a paste-like substance. Reznor, who was watching through a peephole, then enters a similar room and begins to perform the same rituals as Flanagan, presumably to be killed by the machine as well. The video was banned by music video channels worldwide.
"Gave Up"The film ends with a video for "Gave Up" - this is different from the one on Closure, as it is not an actual Nine Inch Nails video, but the music of NIN dubbed over the storyline of the movie. At this point, the victim is suspended from the ceiling, and is repeatedly attacked by the perpetrator first with a blade, then a blowtorch, after which the killer slices off the victim's penis with a straight razor. The camera-work here closely resembles that of an amateur snuff film, while there is interspersed footage of the police searching through the basement, and finding remains of previous victims. (At one point, a sign saying "TRESPASSERS WILL BE EATEN" is shown.) Finally, the film cuts back to the victim strapped on a table, as the murderer hacks his limbs off with a chainsaw, proceeds to presumably rape him, and finally slices his chest open to eat his heart.
The movie then cuts back to the execution scene, showing as the killer is dropped through the trap door, with a crazed smile on his face, falling through a seemingly immensely long tunnel, until the rope suddenly tightens. The movie ends with the inverted version of the Broken album cover, with the background black, and a mirrored "n" character filled with the original orange background texture. The severed head of the killer flying across the screen is also shown after 30 seconds of no audio and a black screen.
In versions of the tape labeled as "Techno-necrophilia", the movie is followed by a segment of Robert "Budd" Dwyer's televised suicide. It doesn't appear on the "leaked" DVD version - it is possible that it was merely added by a third party while the tape was circulating.
All of the killers actions are in relation to the music video before it:
"Pinion" shows a man drowned by a pipe - the killer forces the victim to drink from a petrol can.
In "Wish", Trent Reznor screams "fist fuck" - the killer rewinds the video to that line several times, and begins to rub his fist.
In "Help Me I Am In Hell", a person is shown eating - the killer tears the victim's teeth out
In "Happiness In Slavery", a person is tortured and killed In "Gave Up", the victim is tortured and dismembered.
CastMuch of the cast, aside from Bob Flanagan in "Happiness in Slavery", and the band itself in "Wish", is unknown. Both Nine Inch Nails then-guitarist Richard Patrick and his brother Robert Patrick is rumoured to appear as a policeman in the "Gave Up" segment. The film is generally credited to be directed by Peter Christopherson, although the music videos themselves were directed by various other people: "Pinion" and "Help Me I Am in Hell" is credited to Eric Goode and Serge Becker, while "Happiness in Slavery" is credited to Jon Reiss.
AvailabilityThe movie has not been given an official commercial release (according to Reznor, because they wanted to avoid the film overshadowing the prominence of the music, thus adding to its mythological status in alternative culture. The original hand-dubbed tapes were distributed by Reznor to various friends with dropouts at certain points so he could know who distributed any copies that might surface. Reznor, commenting in the "Access" section of the NIN website, implied that Gibby Haynes was responsible for the most prominent leak. This copy was traded on VHS tapes for years (resulting in many poor-quality, high-generation copies), and was later encoded in MPEG and AVI formats and distributed extensively through peer-to-peer networks and Nine Inch Nails fan websites. These are generally not of the highest quality, as they are not first-generation copies.
The Movie can also be found on the "R" DVD release, a bootleg that has popped up on ebay in recent years.
The music videos (without the interstitial footage between songs) for "Pinion", "Wish", "Help Me I Am in Hell", and "Happiness in Slavery" were made officially available on Closure and on the official Nine Inch Nails website.