Santa Sangre (1989) – Film Review

★★★★★ Alejandro Jodorowsky's Santa Sangre is a beautifully shocking, repulsively irresistable work of art.

A beautifully shocking, repulsively irresistable work of art.

Certain films are unforgettable. It could be that life events come together to make one film or another resonate deep inside, or that the film is so completely insane that its perfectly composed and brightly coloured images are tattooed onto your brain cells forever. For most people, Santa Sangre’s appeal lies in it very definitely belonging to the latter – if it belongs to the former then you should congratulate yourself on having a life filled with circus dwarfs, blood, and tattooed women; indeed, a life well-lived.

Santa Sangre is “holy blood” in Spanish, which refers to a cult first seen in the beginning of the movie based around the worship of an amputated rape victim, whose blood is used as something of a baptismal font. The church that this cult base themselves within is torn down by the local orthodoxy, leading to some fantastic scenes of religious carnage and screaming fits, and the leader of the cult, named Concha, moving with the local circus. She has a child with the circus owner and knife thrower Orgo, who becomes Fenix, the protagonist of the movie. If it sounds convoluted so far, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The film covers everything, from elephant death to genital mutilation. The film is a lusty, perverted ode to insanity for insanity’s sake, and even if it doesn’t really seem to be saying anything profound, the images and the sheer joy in transgression on show here is truly brilliant. By the end of the film, not one taboo remains unbroken.

Throughout the film, one can’t help but return to a word that sums up the entire watching experience – joy. The film is joyful, with every violent act accompanied by a sprightly musical number, or the sheer beauty with with the most intense scenes are filmed. Alejandro Jodrowsky is a master film-maker who has chosen to abuse his talents and make films that are twisted, seductive, and emphatically not designed for mass-appeal.

His work famously divides audiences, but is never dull. He exists in a world that mixes the violent passions of Almodovar with the surrealism of Bunuel. Watching this film is an experience, and one to be shared with others. A true cinematic work of art that will shock and offend no matter how many times it’s seen, which is precisely what makes it so brilliant.


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