Thursday, December 6, 2012

Flesh + Blood

Flesh + Blood; black adventure grotesque; USA/ Netherlands/ Spain, 1985; D: Paul Verhoeven, S: Rutger Hauer, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Burlinson, Jack Thompson, Fernardo Hilbeck, Susan Tyrell, Bruno Kirby, Nancy Cartwright

Western Europe, 1501. In order to re-conquer his city-fortress, the wealthy Arnolfini promises his mercenaries that they will get to plunder for 24 hours if they win it back. The mercenaries, led by the shady Martin, prevail, but they pillaging and raping is so shocking that Arnolfini has them thrown out. In order to take revenge, Martin and his gang kidnap Arnolfini's carriage with gold, as well as his son's, Steven, bride, Agnes, who they rape and then hide in a desolated fortress. Steven tries to free Agnes, but is only captured himself in the fortress. However, Arnolfini's soldiers manage to free Agnes and Steven, setting the fortress on fire.

Paul Verhoeven's first movie in a joint American-Dutch production did not have as much of an impact as his 2nd one, the cult film "RoboCop". It is not really surprising because "Flesh and Blood" is a dark sword and knights anti-epic, dirty, vile, full of gore and disgust, showing sexuality only in a negative way, in which gang rape and torture of a protagonist by shooting an arrow into his arm are among the "normal" events that unfold on the big screen, yet it is questionable how the viewers can decipher quality from all of that. Maybe one can regard it as some sort of a faithful depiction of the Middle Ages, that portraits a society in a period of pre-spirituality and pre-humanity, where people acted selfishly and you could not find a single noble person, which makes the main protagonists led by Martin very unlikable, and his relationship with his slave-girl Agnes awkward and the movie's running time overlong. Only the last 30 minutes crystallized a direction of the storyline, showing a refreshingly suspenseful and clever cat and mouse play between Martin and his gang hiding inside the fortified castle while Arnolfini's soldiers are plotting ways to "crack" them (in one brilliant sequence, an "armored" vehicle made out of solid wood is used to stretch out a bridge over the castle's walls in order to reach inside, while in another a soldier who survived the plague uses a catapult to throw chunks of meat of a dead dog infested with the plague randomly all over the castle, hoping to cause panic among the inhabitants). But, overall, in order to get to those last good 30 minutes, one has to endure all those layers of a mess of a story leading to it.


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