Review: ‘We are the Flesh’ is Explicit, Evocative, and Mesmerizing
By: J. Carlos Menjivar
We are the Flesh (Tenemos La Carne) is a bold, sexually explicit arthouse Mexican film from writer and director Emiliano Rocha Minter. Often shocking, and borderline perverse, Minter’s film is nothing short of surprising ultimately saved by its political underpinnings that hold the subject matter together.
The premise for We are the Flesh is rather simple. A brother and sister, Lucio (Diego Gamaliel) and Fauna (Maria Evoli), encounter Mariano (Noe Hernandez) in an abandoned complex in some sort of post-apocalyptic landscape. Mariano is the key to the two teen’s survival and soon enough the older man has them hard at work creating a cavernous looking den by lining the inner premises with cardboard.
The correlation between what their building and its symbolic meaning is more than obvious as they entomb themselves in a womb-like haven. This is perhaps the last time the film is ever this clear because what plays out for the remainder of the film transcends reality, treading in hallucinatory ground. Moments of sexual exploration appear, at times, as fantasy while in other moments feels lucidly lurid and real, and it’s difficult to tell if any or all is real or imagined.
If you haven’t gathered yet: beware, this film is not for everyone. In fact, most might find it needlessly shocking, off-putting, or pornographic– and to a certain extent, it is. However, it’s not without merit or purpose. The film features taboos– both cultural and sexual– and they range from acts of incest, urolagnia, and masturbation. There is an abundance of genitalia both female and male; as far as men go we are shown an erect and flaccid penis; the latter in close-up for more than 10 seconds juxtaposed with a close-up on a woman’s vulva for an equal amount of extensive time. In short, not a first date film and not something to watch near little ones. You might just have to board up your house in cardboard to watch this clandestine film.
We are the Flesh is audacious and ambitious and through its shocking sexual images, Emiliano Rocha Minter evokes and conjures similarly shocking memories of violence pumped, and reverberating, through, the Mexican media. It goes without saying that violence has been a problem in Mexico, and Minter, uses the socio-political climate to explore the other side of the spectrum, with sex. There is not much of a story here, but what Minter accomplishes is much more thematic and atmospheric– an air of pessimism encapsulated within the confines of the film’s setting and the repression of each character’s sexual impulses waiting to leap out of their bodies manifest in acts of sex. In that same chaos, however, exists the freedom from oppression, and that oppression results from sexual starvation.
Minter creates a compelling world that holds on to its final thread and yet, beyond the violence, confronts its dual opposite in human sexuality. The film reverts to the trope of the womb, and seeks for rebirth through sexual exploration, and thus freedom,–further driven in by how the film ends (don’t worry I won’t spoil that here). Needless to say, We are the Flesh is at times hard to stomach but nonetheless worth the journey and the experience; very few films cover sexuality in such an explicit and frank manner. Even less prominent are films that infuse the political with the sexual, as is accomplished with We are the Flesh; Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers comes to mind. Minter’s film is subversive and his arthouse text establishes the writer-director as a provocateur and someone to watch out for.
We are the Flesh is an Arrow Films release in Spanish with English subtitles. The film has played at Rotterdam International Film Festival, Fantasia International Film Festival, and FantasticFest. On February 11 the film will make its way to the Portland International Film Festival and on March 3 will head to Serbia and the Belgrade Film Festival.
Keep the Fear Alive!