“Something like love doesn’t exist. Only demonstrations of love.”
In a vaguely post-apocalyptic Mexico, two siblings stumble upon an older, grimy gentleman (a fantastic Noe Hernandez) who offers them food and shelter on the condition that they give in to his sensual proclivities.
As with Swiss Army Man, We Are the Flesh is an exploration of bodily desire and instinct when removed from the confines of polite society. Unlike Swiss Army Man, which seems primarily concerned with the link between self-denial and unhappiness, We Are the Flesh seems concerned with the contradictions inherent to applying a system of morality upon the feral, animalistic soul of humanity.
As such, We Are the Flesh intends to shock. It features incest, possibly un-simulated sex, necrophilia, cannibalism, the exchange of fluids – all enacted with a sensual glee, intended to disorient the viewer by presenting these supposed horrors as desirable outcomes. Hernandez’s un-named man is unbelievably charismatic, a grimy God whose sheer will drives the dream-like narrative, almost every choice and action making sense as part of his seductive will. He gives a great monologue early on about loneliness and the way that he allowed himself to succumb to it. I’m paraphrasing here, but it comes down to this: “When you can longer avoid the grotesque thoughts in your head, you must embrace them. And after a while, they no longer seem so grotesque.” If, deep down in the parts we don’t like to acknowledge exist, if deep down there the mind desperately needs to enact something, how can we call it wrong just because society says so?
Writer/director Emiliano Rocha Minter makes his thesis palatable by injecting his film with gorgeous cinematography and a healthy dose of dark humour. The whole film is bathed in a haze of never ending caverns and deep blacks, luring you deep into the frame and into the world of it. The intimacy provided by the camera makes the occasional outright hilarity that much more surprising and welcome, such as the music cues, which usually occur at moments of extreme deprivation, and are so perfectly unexpected and real that I choked on my red wine a few times.
We Are the Flesh is not as disgusting as the buzz might lead one to believe. It is, however, an inaccessible and at times frustratingly abstract descent into debauchery – but it’s well worth the investment.