We are the Flesh (2016) – By Roger Carpenter

 

Over the past several years of reviewing films I have been called upon to view just about every genre, from documentary to romance, from pornography to art film, and from horror to comedy. Very occasionally a film comes along that truly defies description. We are the Flesh is one of them. The film has been described as post-apocalyptic and dystopian. It has also been categorized as a fantasy or horror film as well as an art film. And I’m sure, after watching it, some will be tempted to label it pornography. I’m not going to argue categorization and simply allow the viewer to make up his or her own mind. What I will say is the film is surreal and bizarre. The special features make reference to Jodorowsy’s best work and, having viewed his films as well, I do see a similarity.

Difficult to describe, perhaps it’s best to quote the art on the back of the Blu-ray case: “A young brother and sister, roaming an apocalyptic city, take refuge in the dilapidated lair of a strange hermit. He puts them to work building a bizarre cavernous structure, where he acts out his insane and depraved fantasies. Trapped in this maddening womb-like world under his malign influence, they find themselves sinking into the realms of dark and forbidden behaviour.”

This description refers to the leader of this trio of misfits as a “strange hermit.” I interpreted him as more of a shaman, a black magician of sorts; perhaps even the Devil himself. He certainly does have a “malign influence” over the siblings, coaxing them, goading them, and finally screaming demands at them to participate in atrocious acts most humans would shy away from. For her part, the sister seems desirous to participate in these acts of indecency, even ferocity. Her brother is much more reticent and must be nearly forced to participate. As the siblings sink deeper into the abyss of terror, the acts of murder and incest devolve until there is one final, debauched and bloody orgy of sex and cannibalism.

Some viewers will likely find the film boring, the sex and violence notwithstanding, while others will work hard to derive meaning from the images on the screen. Others will likely not attempt to understand the film but will enjoy it for its depravity. Regardless of the meaning you derive from the film or whatever emotions you feel about the film, the imagery is undeniably startling. The use of color and lighting are superb and, in some cases, are sure to have meaning. For example, during one sequence, our trio use the detritus left in the building to construct a cave. Once the cave of garbage is constructed, it seems to take on an alien-like life of its own, glowing with deep ambers and dark reds, the colors pulsating like a living creature. Created by young Mexican director Emiliano Rocha Minter, certainly Latinos—and specifically Mexicans—will likely have a better understanding of parts of the film, as in the scene where the shaman sacrifices a soldier. After asking the soldier to scream in order to relinquish “everything bad inside,” they sing the Mexican national anthem. What meaning could this have? Luckily, there is a 30-minute visual essay by film critic Virginie Selavy who helps viewers understand Rocha Minter’s intentions for the film. I suggest watching this feature before attempting the film itself. Sure there are some spoilers, but the price is worth it. Of course, it’s only one critic’s interpretation, but with such an obtuse piece of work I was happy to have someone explain it all to me.

We are the Flesh is very stylish and features an interesting and excellent score that complements the visuals. There are a handful of scenes that may be considered shocking, including several violent scenes as well as a handful of scenes depicting actual acts of sex. And there is at least one scene that, when viewed, may be so shocking and repellent as to make you cringe. In her video essay Virginie Selavy recalled an audible gasp from the audience during this scene. To say more would perhaps lessen the impact so, like the film, I will remain a bit obtuse regarding this particular scene. My apologies….

Along with the visual essay, the package comes with several other special features. These include a series of interviews with the director and three lead actors of the film, the theatrical trailer, and a stills gallery. Both of Rocha Minter’s film shorts, Dentro (2013), and Videohome (2014) are also included. Regardless of what you think of this type of film, this first feature for Rocha Minter is impressive, as is the total package from Arrow Video USA. You can order from Amazon or directly from Arrow at: http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/category/usa