Horror and Art Join Hands In Sacred Surrealism:Santa Sangre
Religiously grotesque and lustful, yet surrealistically beautiful is the film Santa Sangre (1989) by cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky. The film portrays, in a brutal manner, the impact brought upon the deaths of a mother and father unto a child left orphan. Leading role Fenix (Axel Jodorowsky), after witnessing his fathers’ suicide (slit throat) and later knowing that his father had cut-off his mother’s arms before slicing himself, grows up heavily traumatized. He is first shown in the film, in adulthood, inside of a mental institution, naked, eating a whole fish, uncooked. With this film you will take a plunge in cold, very deep water: so many colors and shapes; so many mysteries; fantastic and terrifying monsters; in short, the human mind.
Alejandro Jodorowsky achieves another astonishing masterpiece by bringing his own personal background into the film. In his early years, he learned the arts of trapeze and miming; he even studied with the great Marcel Marceau. One of his first employers was a Circus in Chile, his hometown. There he took a job as a clown and started to absorb the mysterious ways and trickeries the public awes and cheers at circuses. Besides the colorful clowns and the saddening mimes, there is also another fundamental element that takes place in the film: religion. Fenix’s mother, Concha, is the religious and “moral” element in the film. She worships a Mexican church by the name of Santa Sangre (“Holy Blood”). She acquires a divine strength, or a dark power, that will forever haunt her orphan child, making the viewer think twice if the mother is in fact dead, alive, or a hallucination; or all three put together!. She lost her arms to her adulterous husband, but her son could still be of use, somehow; come to think of it, he still has a fresh pair of arms.
The acclaim and height of this film comes not from the awards and/or nominations it has earned, but from the public itself, from the cult followers of this great and terror stricken director. Having directed cult movies like El Topo, in 1970,and The Holy Mountain, in 1973, in 1989 he comes back with Santa Sangre to give his audience another taste of surrealism and horror; of blood and family, which his followers then, would have expected nothing less than a great work of art. And it delivered, big time.
The soundtrack really caught my interest and attention. I found it equally amazing and horrifying how the use of classic Latin hits made the movie even more haunting, more intriguing, more agitated. More importantly, was that the soundtrack brought in even more culture into the film. The music very much compensated the fact that the dialogues were all in English even though the film is set in Mexico and the majority of the cast is Hispanic. Anyway, if music is something that catches your attention, then I am sure you won’t mind me listing a few: “Besame Mucho” by Consuelo Velazquez, “Lupita” by Damaso Perez Prado, “Cucurrucucu paloma” by Tomas Mendez, and “Dejame Llorar” by Alfonso Esparza Oteo.
The Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) is a pretty tough crowd when it comes to rating movies. IMDB hits this movie, with over 5000 voters, with a very accurate rating of 7.6 out of 10. That is a pretty high rating when it comes to a terror film listed in IMDB. Moreover, acclaimed film critic Robert Ebert writes “Santa Sangre is a throwback to the golden age, to the days when filmmakers had bold individual visions and were not timidly trying to duplicate the latest mass-market formulas.” He is definitely right, so please: get up; buy; hit play.