Two homeless siblings find an abandoned warehouse in the middle of the city, where an older man lives. He allows them to stay there with him, but for his own evil plans. He starts manipulating them into performing incestous acts with each other, but this only marks the beginning of the corruption they're about to experience.
Emiliano Rocha Minter's debut feature "We Are the Flesh" has made some noise at Fantasia International Film Festival due to being a violent movie with explicit sex, and might be one of the new films to stir it up a bit among the audience. As you know, we and a large part of our readership is drawn to violent and sexual films. I always try to watch these films with a curious mind, often trying to see if there is actually much of a point behind it all, or if it's simply for shock. Some movies are visually pleasing but ultimately shallow. Some are ugly but incredibly deep and thought-provoking. A visually shocking movie can have much to say, that's for sure, but it's unfortunate that so many movies cover up their lack of interesting ideas with nudity and blood. It's one thing if you make a mindless slasher, than if you make something that seems like it wants to be smart. I'll admit that I do not have "We Are the Flesh" quite figured out yet.
There is something darkly humorous about the old homeless man in "We Are the Flesh". He lives in an abandoned warehouse in the middle of a city in ruins, and spends his time making gas. He's an eccentric personality and comes off as something out of a fairytale. An odd little troll, or something along the lines of that. One day two siblings, a brother and sister, find their way into his warehouse and ask for a place to sleep. He agrees, but only so that he can set them off on a path to complete corruption. After he forces them to help him build a cave-like room out of one of the open spaces, before he leads the siblings into temptation (as the devious little character that he is). He wants them to have sex with each other, and it all goes downhill from there (without spoiling the whole thing).
My feelings for "We Are the Flesh" are mixed to say the least. The first half of the movie is quite intriguing and almost feels like you are in this old warehouse with them. We're following a very strange man and we don't really know what his goal is, or how he will react when two siblings arrive at his humble abode. We have no idea what we're watching, but it seems to be going towards some dark places. While that is absolutely right, the second half feels more like a trip than a story. Purposely, of course, but it's definitely one of those times when it feels like the style overshadows everything else. It's symbolic but not in a way that gets my mind going, because it feels like we've been through that kind of symbolism because. Religion, life, evil in man, etc. it's all there. The cave that they build acts as a womb, the old man as some sort of devil, and so forth. At the same time, the movie is so focused on showing explicit sex and visually pleasing setups, that I can't help but feel that it's overcompensating. The entire first half of the movie feels almost pointless when you reach the second half, because it doesn't actually build up to the second half that well. At that point it only feels like we saw a man forcing siblings to have sex, and then everything goes over-the-top. It makes me wonder if the explicit sex and violence is what the movie was built around, rather than building up to.
It's hard to call a filmmaker a rebel for using sex or gore in certain ways anymore because we have all seen so much, yet there are certain filmmakers that you probably still associate to that. It's possible that one of those filmmakers are Gaspar Noé, who feels like the biggest inspiration for "We Are the Flesh", with its heavy use of colored lighting, odd camera movements, graphic sex and violence, and nihilistic outlook. But even Gaspar Noé feels like he is far from where he once was because so much of the focus has been put on style (arguably still with some substance), and unfortunately that's where it feels like Emiliano Rocha Minter's debut fits in best - with Gaspar Noé newer work, which might look great and take you on a trip, but doesn't seem to have that much of a story that drives its ideas.
The movie isn't actually bad, but it doesn't seem to have much of a point that hasn't been explored better in other art. You can enjoy the movie as a fucked up trip, with some black comedy and a lot of sex. It just seems like the best parts of the movie were at the beginning when you actually felt invested. I don't know if the movie needed to be this explicit to say what it wanted to say, or if it was this explicit because they wanted to make an explicit movie. There are several philosophical ideas that are hinted at in the movie, yet it doesn't explore any of them on a deeper level and at times makes me feel it's closer to experimental erotica such as Maria Beatty's work, but without being honest about it. It is still impressive to see a debut feature that is as visually intense as this one is, because that still makes it a decent viewing experience. If art is supposed to make you feel, then "We Are the Flesh" nails it, even though it didn't make me think much.