The Psychology of "Blood of My Blood"

in 72nd Venice International Film Festival

by Gianlorenzo Franzi

In Bobbio, a nun has seduced a priest; she is therefore under investigation to see if she has been bewitched by the devil. The seduced priest has committed suicide, so the Church has denied him Christian burial. It is up to the priest’s brother to take action with the supposed witch, in hopes of giving the priest redemption. Several centuries later, in the same prison where the Inquisition murdered “witches”, a count lives in secrecy. The count’s vampiric existence is threatened by a mysterious artist and a Russian billionaire who wants to buy the dilapidated building.              

Two segments, two stories, two projects filmed in a distinct manner, as if the first part of Blood of My Blood (Sangue del mio sangue) was born as a short film, while the second was designed for necessary closure, as an inevitable link to the Bobbio of today. Marco Bellocchio’s films are cinema at its most pure, savage, primitive and conceptual, conceived around a magnificent disorientation which is the result of history. His films are always deeply authorial and admittedly personal, often with brilliant insights. They are also highly theoretical: what seems clear during the film gives way to doubt after the credits, leaving one with an overpowering feeling of perplexity.            

In his 25th feature, Bellocchio continues to move forward with his perversely restless style and disturbing, sharp, dreamlike pictures. His films are never safely reconciled, never easy, always looking to a viewer to contribute to their processing. He entwines an artistic family with one of blood (he once again uses actors Roberto Herlitzka and Alba Rohrwacher, as well as his son Piergiorgio, daughter Elena and brother Alberto). But Blood of My Blood seems to want to give up the past and look to the future. As the count decides to die, as the nun chooses to be imprisoned in order to rise in the future, so Bellocchio underlines how time passes inexorably – it is useless to resist it.          

In the second part – which is braver, newer, and perhaps even more alienating than the restless first section – Bellocchio launches into a graceful invective against the world, against a society which no longer recognizes itself (if it ever did). A subcutaneous pain is always present, but he will never give up the search for identity, investigating the “religion of self-denial and guilt” which is the throbbing soul of his films and a reflection of our country. Bellocchio sees that in Italy we are still enslaved by the power of the old, the ancient and the bored. He looks at the country’s psychological problems, which have many faces; he wanders through the centuries, reawakening in a vein of fantasy. It is in dreams and superstition that he finds reasons for the diseases of living and thinking.    

Edited by Lesley Chow