“There is no such thing as love,” one character tells another in Emiliano Rocha Minter’s punishing debut film, We Are the Flesh. “Only demonstrations of love.” This declaration, made before a fresh debasement, is almost a thesis statement for this Mexican grotesquerie, dedicated to separating intention and morality from action.
It’s the philosophy of Mariano (wild-eyed Noé Hernández), a squalid Svengali who enthralls two siblings who stumble upon his postapocalyptic lair and agree to follow his rules in exchange for food. Mariano enlists Fauna (María Evoli) and Lucio (Diego Gamaliel) in building a makeshift cavern, a structure that first suggests an elaborate blanket fort made from furniture and cardboard but expands into a womblike catacomb while the building it’s in largely vanishes.
It’s one of many dissociations from the outside world, experienced equally by the siblings and the film’s audience. The mind games lead to incest, bloodletting, and rape, carnality Minter presents unflinchingly, as something to savor.
The film assaults the connection between spirit and flesh, but the strength of the revulsion it inspires is a signal that that bond is not so easily broken. Filmgoers who brave We Are the Flesh may regret seeing it. Forgetting it is another matter entirely.
We Are the Flesh
Written and directed by Emiliano Rocha Minter
Opens January 20, Cinema Village