Fenix is crushed when his favorite circus elephant dies. A public funeral is held in the street in the form of a rag-tag parade where a massive casket holding the elephant is the star attraction. Later, the casket is dropped into the city dump, where scavengers open it up and proceed to cut off the meat of the beloved elephant. Orgo consoles Fenix by tattooing a spread-eagled phoenix onto his chest, identical to his own chest. Orgo uses a knife and red ink to sculpt his masterpiece, a passing of legacy in blood and soul.
Santa Sangre (Holy Blood) has been called an avant-garde horror film, psychedelic journey, even a surrealistic psycho-sexual horror tour de force, however I will offer you Freaky Holiness. Or what about calling it the greatest circus movie ever! It tells the story of Fenix, a boy who grew up in the circus.
One of the most pivotal moments of the film is when Fenix watches his mother (Concha) and father (Orgo) in a vicious fight regarding his mistress, The Tattooed Woman. In a premeditated moment of vengeance Concha pours a bottle of sulfuric acid onto Orgo’s genitals. Orgo retaliates by cutting off both her arms. He then walks into the street and slits his throat. Soon after Fenix is sent to a mental institution.
Years later he escapes the asylum to return to his armless mother who is the leader of a cult. They begin to perform publicly. The performance revolves around Fenix standing behind his mother as he moves his arms so that they appear to be her arms. Concha then begins to use her son’s hands to kill women she labels as threats to her being. And there is also a dream sequence of Fenix killing many more women and this haunts him.
After many murders the police finally catch up to Fenix and order him to put up his hands. As Fenix raise his hands he watches them rise and in a transcendent moment he realizes that he has finally regained control of them and this brings him a deep satisfaction.
Our Blood Is Yours
Alejandro Jodorowsky, the director and writer of Santa Sangre, once said, “Most directors make films with their eyes. I make films with my balls.” The legendary Chilean filmmaker’s career is as strange and interesting as his films. He has worn many hats through his long life as poet, novelist, playwright, essayist, film director/producer, actor (movie and theatre), theatre director, screenwriter, film editor, comics writer, musician and composer, philosopher, puppeteer, mime, psychologist and psychoanalyst, draughtsman, painter, sculptor and spiritual guru. Jodorowsky’s chameleon-like personality is on full display in Santa Sangre.
“What can an artist do? He cannot create. He can transform. We are transforming things. Only God can create. We are transformers…Not the Hollywood Transformers.”
“I ask of film what most North Americans ask of psychedelic drugs.”
The techniques of flashback and flash-forward are pushed to the limit. The present/future/past coagulate to form a seamless alternative reality. Every urge, need, misunderstanding, painful moment weaves through an erotic comic tragedy. Psychomagic. The ridiculous does not seem ridiculous, as normal does not seem so normal. A civilization of impulse and misbegotten dreams catering to the slapstick and the pageantry of every human’s absurd realization that this shall not last. But what of it?
Birds born in a cage think flying is an illness.
Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Producer: Claudio Argento
Screenplay: Alejandro Jodorowsky (also original story), Roberto Leoni and Claudio Argento
Music: Simon Boswell
Cinematography: Daniele Nannuzzi
Editor: Mauro Bonanni
Production Designer: Alejandro Luna
Productora Filmica Real
Released: November 24, 1989
Faviola Elenka Tapia
Running time 123 minutes