Bronze Label

Santa Sangre (1989)

8.5/10

I highly advise considering the following aspects of this film before you actually start watching it; 1: you like conceptual films, and 2: you don’t mind the absurdist genre. In addition to this I also advise you to watch at least one film directed by Federico Fellini, preferably “8½”,  before you start with Santa Sangre because some elements are Fellini-esque. The reason behind this specific recommendation is that Santa Sangre is a great film when you are perceiving it with the ‘right’ perspective. However, if you just want to be entertained and are looking for something light and easy then this is definitely NOT a film for you. This might sound a little elitist, or arrogant, but if you are not interested in different cultures, Art, alternative lifestyles, and something that pulls you out of your comfort zone then you are not the audience for this film. It really feels like the entire film was created for the Art scene itself. I call it high Art, but you might call it something else. The point is that it might not be worth your time (123 minutes), but i can guarantee you that you will gain a huge Art experience once you commit yourself to this film.

Now you might be more interested in the story, and here is my perspective on what Santa Sangre (Holy blood) is about. Santa Sangre is about a son (Fenix) who has a very intense, and interesting  relationship with his parents. The mother (Concha) has her own cult (Santa Sangra) and can be classified as a religious zealot, or an extremist of some kind. Fenix’s father (Orgo) is a knife thrower in the circus who is more interested in the physical, and not in the spiritual. It almost feels like Concha, and Orgo are the polar opposites and somehow reflect the nature of women, and men. This itself is already an extreme perspective, but this perspective becomes more nuanced  later on in the film when Fenix has some kind of a relationship with a wrestler.

The scene where Fenix as a child is being tattooed by his father signifies manhood, and his father’s desire to turn him into a ‘real’ man. The eagle that is being tattooed resembles the American free spirit. This is something which can also be seen again when Orgo, and Fenix are dressed in a cowboy-ish style. It is this constant struggle between two polar opposites (father and mother) that causes Fenix to lose his own identity. During one scene he chooses the path of his father and becomes a knife thrower himself. The outcome is a disaster as his mother starts to dominate his actions. The protagonist becomes like a string puppet that is being controlled by his own past. The total lack of free will leads Fenix astray. I will not reveal the ending but i can tell you that there is a certain character in the story that awakens him. One might say that this character has the role of a messiah, but that would be too much of a stretch in my opinion. Moreover, there are religious elements being used to inspire the story, but the extent might be minimal, although the last scene does contain a quote from a psalm. To me it remains a question to which extent this really is about religious perspectives, but then again I think a lot of different elements were combined. The element of a controlling mother was expressed, but this could also signify the spiritual self.

On some occasions I found the acting not too convincing, but the fact that certain scenes were very cinematic made up for it. Additionally, the set details, and costume details were simply magnificent. The amount of labor that went into the set design is unparalleled. I also applaud Axel Jodorowsky for using Mexico as a setting because the colors, and style of the houses really worked well with this particular story.

You can perceive this film in many different ways and one perspective might not be more ‘true’ than another perspective, and this is exactly what makes this film a high Art film. Moreover, symbolism and expressionism have the upper hand and dictate the essence of this film. I would say that you should not rationalize every single detail but rather try to grasp the message/s that the writer, and director try to communicate to the audience. It is a film with multiple layers that leaves an impression on you.

Directed by :

Alejandro Jodorowsky

Writing Credits:  

Alejandro Jodorowsky(story)
 
Roberto Leoni(story)
 
Alejandro Jodorowsky(screenplay) &
Roberto Leoni(screenplay) &
Claudio Argento(screenplay)

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