We Are the Flesh is a polarizing film and rightly so. Much in the way that films like Claire Denis’s Trouble Every Day (2001) and Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses (1976) forced us to look at the relationship between sex and violence or the ugly reality of obsession, We Are the Flesh asks that we embrace desires that society has forced us to view as immoral or disgusting. It does so in such an unapologetic way that there’s no doubt in my mind that director Emiliano Rocha Minter was aware that he would be pissing a few people off once this hit screens.
Synopsis: While wandering a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a brother and sister stumble upon a man living in an abandoned building who will change how they see the world forever.
I’m a firm believer that good art should provoke a reaction. Whether it’s tears of joy or shouts of anger. There’s nothing worse to me than mediocrity or safeness when it comes to art—I’d rather see an artist fail than play it safe. So, as we watch Fauna (Maria Evoli) and Lucio (Diego Gamaliel) descend into surreal madness under the guidance of Mariano (Noé Hernández) I was thrilled to see how far Minter was willing to take the debauchery—from Diego being menstruated upon to Mariano’s very literal cosmic rebirth.
To the passive film viewer We Are the Flesh will come across as an exercise in perversion, but Minter isn’t crafting a traditional narrative. He’s sculpting an ideology, one that we actively work against in our daily lives. The film posits the idea that we’re all repressing what truly drives us: to have sex, to indulge, to achieve oneness with one another through these acts to an extent that modern society deems immoral.
I admire the fact that Minter doesn’t hold back on the sexuality, even when it’s between two characters that are siblings. It’s erotic and oftentimes filthy. Yet, the director’s lens isn’t colored by the belief that any of this is bad. The sex between characters is glorified, leading to an almost spiritual transcendence, and posits the idea that only by engaging in taboo acts can we evolve.
No one person is truly going to experience We Are the Flesh in the same way. I was enamored with its visuals and full frontal assault on values, while my buddy felt like he just watched a bunch of random nonsense.
The movie was less about plot and more about an idea. A traditional narrative would’ve been oddly placed and less effective. The film wants you to join it in its debauchery, when Maria goes down on Diego in what I’m almost certain is a non-simulated interaction in which the camera cuts to Diego’s POV, looking down at her, making the audience one-hundred percent a participant in what’s happening. No doubt this made several people uncomfortable. You can watch someone kill another or get down and dirty, but when the director puts you in the seat, the moment is happening to you.
It’s the equivalent of being pushed into the ocean without warning, and you’re forced to decide if you’re sinking or swimming—I swam.
Anthony Trevino is a writer from Southern California where everything is slowly turning into a sun-blasted hellscape. He’s also the co-host of the Dickheads Podcast, an in-depth look at the works of Philip K. Dick, a lover of cinema, music made by machines, and one day hopes to find out that we’re all living in a simulation.