Mexican film makers are on a roll as of late. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Alfonso Cuaron, & Guillermo Del Toro are among the most popular (& successful) film directors in the business right now. But Mexico and its history of genre film makers goes way way back. The first true horror film from Mexico was released in 1934 (El Fantasmo Del Convento. Dir: Juan Bustillo Oro). Fernando Mendez (El Vampiro/1957), Chano Urueta (El Baron Del Terror aka The Brainiac/1961), Rafael Baledon (La Maldicion de la Llorona/1963), and the infamous Rene Cardona (La Horrirpilante Bestia Humana aka Night Of The Bloody Apes/1969) are examples of stand out Mexican horror film directors. I’m not too sure if Writer/Director Emiliano Rocha Minter is destined to join the ranks of celebrated Mexican film directors just yet, but his debut feature, We Are The Flesh, is definitely gonna get him noticed.
In a dystopian future, Mariano (Noe Hernandez) lives in a dilapidated and abandoned building by himself. As the film opens, we watch as he creates some sort of fuel out of moldy bread, water and god knows what else, the fluid also serves as a hallucinogenic of sorts. When he’s not making fuel, he roams around the empty rooms of the building he lives in, shouting inanities to no one, and loudly beating on a drum as he shouts to no one. Eventually, a brother (Diego Gamaliel) and sister (Maria Evoli) happen along, scavenging for food and a place to sleep. Mariano makes them an offer: He’ll let them stay with him if they help him turn one of the rooms into a cardboard cavern of sorts, by covering every square inch of it with cardboard, natch. So the three of them begin to laboriously cover the room with cardboard (and LOTS of tape). But Mariano also wants the siblings to have sex with each other. While he watches. Mariano’s ultimate goal is to corrupt them as much as he can.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, We Are The Flesh is a pretty vile slice of graphic sex and bizarre imagery. But I found it to be oddly watchable for the first 45 minutes or so. Although I had no idea as to where the film was headed, I was having a pretty decent time trying to decipher whatever it was Minter was trying to convey with the graphic sex and nutty visuals on display. You read that right, the siblings eventually do develop a sexual relationship. And the camera doesn’t shy away from their furtive coupling – not at all. Is it pornographic? I’d venture that it isn’t, but it’s damned close. Close enough to probably infuriate a good percentage of the film’s audience. Add in scenes of necrophilia, menstruation, and cannibalism, and you get what is probably one of the most depraved films you’ve ever seen.
But it’s a gorgeous depraved film. Yolottl Alvarado’s cinematography is lush, sensual, & gorgeous. Minter’s camera hunts the characters down, like a leopard spying on its prey. It really feels like we’re watching something we’re not supposed to be watching a lot of the time, as if we’re spying on Mariano and his captives. Esteban Aldrete’s score is also memorable. It pulses, and vibrates with a seething, passionate rhythm that digs a hole straight to your brain through your ears. Although what you’re watching might repulse you, it all looks/sounds so good it practically dares you to turn your head away from it.
But after 45 minutes, I found myself getting confused, perhaps bored is the better description of how I felt. All of the symbolism and allegory became too overt for me. I’m not here to tell you that I understood exactly what was going on here, I definitely didn’t. But that’s not always a problem if the visuals keep me interested. But after awhile, We Are The Flesh seemed to be trying too hard to mystify/excite/repulse me. As if it sensed I was becoming bored, so it turned up the depravity in a vain attempt to get me to pay closer attention. That’s not a hallmark of good film making, that’s a director floundering under the weight of a nonsensical script that he wrote. Piling on scenes of graphic nudity and sex (The long, slow close up’s of both the siblings genitals must’ve been a hell of a thing to see on a big screen) doesn’t make a film any better – It just makes it pornographic. Adding on scenes full of dialogue that’s meant to sound mysterious and profound doesn’t make a film any better either – they just make the film more impenetrable. Or at least they did to me.
The surprise ending is a kick in the pants, but doesn’t clear things up either. I was really anxious to see this film, I’d read so much about it. And it definitely polarizes audiences, as you’ll either love it or hate it. Personally, I can’t say I liked it or hated it. I like to describe films like We Are The Flesh as “Being above my pay grade“. It’s definitely gritty enough for me, but it’s also way too art house for me as well. Perhaps I wasn’t made to appreciate films like this one, I dunno. But I do know that it will make you think (Although I couldn’t say exactly what you’d be thinking of). If you see it with a group of friends, it’ll definitely start a spirited dialogue afterwards. As for me, the best thing I can say about it is that the performances are brave, the cinematography is beautiful, and the score is pleasingly pulsating.
The rest of it was dense as Chinese arithmetic to me. And it’s a Mexican movie!
We Are The Flesh (2 / 5)