"Sangre" spills no blood By Jannike Åhlund

in 58th Cannes Film Festival

by Jannike Ahlund

The FIPRESCI winner in the Un Certain Regard section, Mexican film Sangre, by 26-year old debutant Amat Escalante, has been cited for bearing some aesthetic resemblance to the films of Carlos Reygadas, for whom Escalante has worked as a director’s assistant and who is also the co-producer of Sangre. To me Sangre, looks like it has more affinity with the films of Roy Andersson. Escalante’s first work, the short Amarrados, depicts a homeless boy addicted to sniffing glue, caught in a vicious circle of dysfunction and sexual abuse. Compared with him, the all-too-ordinary couple in Sangre are considerably better off. They are living together; they have steady jobs; they assure each other they are in love. Their only problem is that they lead sensationally boring lives, in which literally nothing happens that changes the humdrum repetition of everyday activities – including the dullest sex scenes ever performed on screen: the daily soap is on during the not-so-steamy act, and Emma continues to watch the action on TV, as her husband Diego is at it (with her) on the kitchen table.

Escalante does a superb job in demonstrating the devastating effect a dull life can have on the human psyche – these people are acting only on the most basic of human stimuli – and when they do they are eerily robotic. Sangre may also be seen as a testimony to our submission to a homogenized consumerist society.

Escalante is a minimalist of a rare kind with what comes across as a very conscious approach to depicting this twisted reality, which we will find all around us it we just look hard enough. His gaze is fixed and his sense of detail impressive. It may be a minimalist standard to let some of the action take place out of frame, beyond our vision, and to abolish camera movement – Escalante is not the first to practise these alienation techniques. But I am again reminded of Roy Andersson when it comes to a successful combination of aesthetic rigour and a burlesque sense of humour (even if it doesn’t exactly makes you laugh at the atrocities depicted). Sangre operates in the abysmal divide that exists as a result of people becoming accustomed to expressing themselves, their desires, fears and feelings by imitating the aforementioned soaps. As a result, they are totally incapable of expressing or even experiencing anything that could be regarded as “genuine”. When personal disaster looms, Diego doesn’t have a clue what to feel. When he encounters his neglected daughter from an earlier marriage dead by overdose in a hotel room, he bundles her up in plastic like a true professional and walks along some busy Mexican streets. This is the most chilling image of all: everyone is watching and nobody sees. Escalante offers no redemption in Sangre.