Showing at FACT on May 29th -30th
Reviewed by Colin Serjent
Carnages is an outstanding French film, which is often dream-like in its fusion of several interlinked stories or themes, superbly directed by Delphine Gleize, believed by some, including myself after seeing this 2002 minor masterpiece, to be a new cinema visionary.
A bull, notably its horns, and a matador, are potent symbol throughout the film.
The matodor is gravely injured after being attacked by the animal inside a bull ring - the scenes leading up to this incident, where he is brandishing his red cloak in front of the fearsome bull, with five spears dangling from its body, are strangely compelling with the realisation that both contestants in this horrendous form of so-called sport, will end up losers.
The matodor is taken to hospital, where he will need a new liver, and the bull is slaughtered. None of the animal will be wasted. Its huge bones are sold in a supermarket as dog food, its meat is processed to be eaten by both humans and animals, and the horns are presented to someone who believes they have mystical qualities.
There is one particular dark comic moment when the young son of an animal medical researcher is seen playing with the two eye balls of the bull- they were kept in his father's laboratory - as if they were marbles.
Two other notable strands of the story revolve around a five-year-old girl, who suffers from epilepsy, and an aspiring actress, who becomes involved in primal scream therapy. Both have warm glowing eyes, which the camera lovingly captures time after time. The camera is constantly used on close-up shots, not only on these two characters in the film, but also on other figures as well.
The relevance of the two to the plot is not always clear. But I believe that the yound girl acts as an observer of the absurdities of adult behaviour in all its complex forms, and the would-be actress is trying to discover herself by regressing back to when she was born and hopefully beginning her life afresh.
Carnages is a bold, often challenging but thoughtful and reflective picture, and provides yet another example of the consistently high quality of film making in France.