Thursday, February 10, 2011

Vamp or Not? Carne de tu Carne

Carne de tu Carne – or Flesh of my Flesh – was a 1983 movie by Carlos Mayo, set and filmed in Colombia.

The film starts by looking at a well-to-do family and the events that occurred, historically, in the city of Cali in August 1956. However the tone and timbre of the film changes as the location shifts out into the country.

I have seen a description of the film as Tropical Gothic though I am not sure that the description is wholly accurate.

Dying Grandmother
The film itself begins with a scene of an elderly woman dying, her breath laboured. Her grandson, Andres (David Guerrero), is by her bedside. She calls him Enrique and says “flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood” before passing away. Andres calls the family. Following this we see an employee of the family, Eber, go out to the country. Workers have found human remains when digging post holes. Eber has them continue building the fences. Later we see the base of operations, human bodies are piled up – though these illicit no further comment. Eber blows the head of a turkey at point blank range. Worringly, it appears that the footage was genuine.

Andres’ father, having received a consignment of human ears from Eber, sends Andres to the airfield to pick up his mother and half-sister, Margareth (Adriana Herrán). On the way back to the house she shows him the inside of her bag and the packet of cigarettes she has smuggled along with her. As the will is read, the siblings stay in another room smoking and listening to music. When she plays 'Love me Tender' Margareth gets Andes to dance with her. The dance seems more intimate than it should do. The will is read and they discover that grandmother left a property to her estranged brother Enrique (Josué Ángel) – the black sheep of the family and known communist. The siblings are called in and hear that the sugar stock has been left jointly to them. A property is also left to Andres’ father and both the sibling’s mother in the hope they will get back together. The date is the 6th August.

explosion victims
Before everyone retires to bed we see a home movie, which gives the viewer a glimpse into the family. That night an explosion rocks the house. They think it is an earthquake at first and we see our first glimpse of anything supernatural – the ghost of grandmother in her chair. In the streets there is chaos. It is not an earthquake but some army trucks have exploded. This is based on an actual an event from the history of Cali, when seven army trucks, fully loaded with dynamite, exploded in the early hours of 7th August 1956, destroying around 8 city blocks.

on the swing
In the morning Anders is sent to the farmstead, La Emma, to pick up a generator and some food for the family. Margareth asks to go with him and is allowed. On their journey Anders suggests that they are in the region of La Madremonte – a woman who took her children to the mountains and ate them. There is precious little I could find about the folklore this is based on and the concept sounds like a grizzlier version of La Llorona – a folklore figure who is present in Colombian myths in her own right - the most I could find on Madremonte is that she protects nature. They get to the farm, play on a swing and then go up to see their Uncle Enrique.

the kiss
When they get there they tell Enrique that their grandmother is dead. He has them change, as they are dirty, and Anders confides to Margareth that he thinks their grandmother was Enrique’s lover at one point. Enrique leaves them and goes to his room, having pointed out where he keeps his papers. Anders finds a letter confirming his suspicion when Margareth kisses him, he pulls away at first and then kisses her back.

the ghosts
That night they become more intimate and are on the verge of sex when Margareth sees Enrique in a doorway. They stop but he is not there. They look for him and find his body – whether he killed himself or died of a broken heart we do not know. We see that noises begin to be heard in nearby farms and ghosts appear to Margareth. Anders begins to burn the papers, protecting his family, but Margareth is acting strangely, she sees more ghosts including a doctor (a family member who is meant to be in Europe) who has fangs. We hear the phrase “Those who have tasted the richness of the blood…” There is symbolism surrounding a doll and when the two finally copulate – in a scene that is almost a rape and seems devoid of anything resembling emotion – the ghosts of the doctor, a nun, a general and a family member who was a suicide look on with self-congratulatory gloating. From now on the siblings no longer appear to be themselves. Whether they are possessed by ghosts or have become creatures of folklore we are not sure.

tasting blood
Out and about strange things have happened. The midwife’s baby vanishes, only to be found in a toilet, blood on its back and a baby shaped fetish next to it. Eber is sent to look for the siblings. The farm is empty (as the caretaker and his wife have gone to the midwife as the caretaker's wife is about to give birth). He goes to Enrique’s and shouts for them – Margareth sneaks behind him and shoots him dead. The siblings carry him inside and she tastes his blood, kissing Anders so that he can taste it also.

in the jungle
They stalk the caretaker and his wife as they head back to the farmstead with the newly delivered infant. That night they break in and the caretaker is hit with a hoe as the baby is taken. Luckily he is not killed and he tracks the siblings down. We assume that, off screen, he kills them as we then see the wife holding her baby as he buries them in the jungle.

rising from their grave
The family send a soldier to discover what has happened and he rounds up all the nearby peasants. The midwife’s husband is suspected as he last saw the caretaker (who has now vanished) however the sibling’s mother asks for the peasants held to be released. On their way home he sees a burial mound with smoke flowing into it – the resting place of the siblings we suspect and that suspicion is confirmed as they rise bodily from their grave. This is actually where the film ends.

Anders with blood at his mouth
So we have two young people thirsting for blood – especially baby blood. Incest seals their fate, they might be possessed but they certainly rise from the grave. The difficulty is that the local legends obviously play a part in this but they are barely mentioned and thus those not familiar with Colombian folklore (as I admit I am not) might struggle to see something that would be obvious to someone who knows the local legends. Also aspects of the film are most certainly included to make comment on the politics of Colombia and the Colombian upper class who seem to be able to do as they like, be it eating cheese sent as relief food (in a scene mid-way through the film) or rounding up all the peasants of an area as they do at the end of the film.

They seem to have lost their minds
For the uninitiated viewer this all serves to muddy the waters of the film and also doesn’t help us work out whether the film is ‘Vamp or Not?’ On reflection I decided it was. There is a thirst for blood and there is a rising from the dead, the incest of the siblings opens the door to this – a traditional cause of vampirism – and the mist into the grave seemed to nod to traditional folklore also (albeit European folklore). The imdb page is here.

1 comment:

RoseOfTransylvania said...

Well, that real shooting of turkey could really have been let out, otherwise this sounds... well, some good ideas, but sounds like plot could have been better.