It’s always impressive when a film manages to truly immerse the viewer in the world it’s presenting. In the case of We Are The Flesh, which played at Fantasia Film Festival, it’s not necessarily a pleasant experience, but good lord, it is powerful. First time filmmaker Emiliano Rocha Minter has crafted a film that is truly nightmarish but utterly hypnotic; a grubby, grimy and potent vision of a hell that might be closer than you might think.
In a post-apocalyptic Mexico, a lone scavenger (Noé Hernández) has made a home for himself in a cardboard-lined ruin, but his routine is interrupted by the arrival of a young brother and sister (Diego Gamaliel and María Evoli). He gladly takes these teenagers in, but he’s not interested in protecting them.
What begins is a gruelling journey towards perversion and madness, as the man starts bullying his new guests moving into sleeping with each other, a prospect which at least one of them apparently does not find that unappealing. The provocation isn’t merely suggestive, it’s backed up by graphic depictions of incest, cannibalism and rape that consciously recall the work of Gaspar Noe (Irreversible, Enter The Void).
But while the confrontational nature of the seediness packs real shock value, what really impresses is Minter’s skill as a filmmaker. With his cinematographer Yollótl Alvarado and art director Manuela García, he creates a setting that is claustrophobic and womb-like, a primal furnace where there is no moral judgement, no possibility of intervention and, eventually, no rules about life and death.
These increasingly unbound characters wander this sweaty otherworld, committing ever-more transgressive and unspeakable deeds with ferocious energy and, in the case of the man, something approaching rapture.
There’s also a sharp political element which becomes ever more important as the film progresses and new arrivals somehow find their way into this world. We don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s a commentary that’s as fierce as the impact of some of the images that Minter confronts you with. The performances are excellent, with the late Hernández in particular standing out with a truly unforgettable turn.
It’s so clearly not for everyone that it seems redundant to point that out, but this is a hugely impressive blend of provocation and cinematic skill. You may not enjoy your time with We Are The Flesh, but you will not be able to look away, and you will not be able to forget it. And you might need a shower afterwards.