If you have read my blogs before this, then you know that writer/director Alejandro Jodorowsky is no stranger to the bizarre. Santa Sangre may not be Jodorowsky’s most strange and confusing film, but it is certainly his most disturbing. Let me put it this way: El Topo is Purgatory, The Holy Mountain is Heaven, and Santa Sangre is Hell.
A man finds himself in a mental hospital, and refuses to act like a normal human being. Cut back to his childhood. Fenix (Adan Jodorowsky) is a circus performer along with mother (Bianca Guerra) and father (Guy Stockwell), who is having an affair with the tattooed woman (Thelma Tixou). Fenix is abused by his father and hates the life he was given, but finds solace in the new mime, a deaf and mute girl named Alma (Faviola Tapia). One night, all of the conflict in his life collides, and we are then transported again to the present where the older Fenix (Axel Jodorowsky) is still in the mental hospital. He escapes to find his armless mother and lives with her to be her arms. Every chance Fenix now has at love is crushed by his mother who can now control his arms and uses them to kill the women, maybe even his original love, Alma (now played by Sabrina Dennison).
This is one of those movies that when the credits begin to roll, the viewer is forced to just sit staring at the screen and contemplate what they just witnessed. So much happens in Santa Sangre that it’s almost difficult to take it all in. The movie is loaded with family dynamics, love deeper than the surface, possible incest, mental disorders, and the plight of mortality. Now that’s a fully loaded movie.
For fans of El Topo and The Holy Mountain, some people might be disappointed with how linear and down to earth this might be. In fact, I was on the IMDB message boards for this movie and people were complaining that it wasn’t “trippy” enough. If that’s the only reason you’re watching a Jodorowsky film, than yes, Santa Sangre won’t really be enjoyable for you.
For me, this was an incredibly moving and haunting experience. As I said before, this film is hellish in a surreal, but also very real kind of way. It shows sides of the world that I don’t particularly know a lot about, but does exist. There’s the side of living with a torn family and also a side of living with overwhelming guilt and shame. If you aren’t sympathetic towards Fenix, then you must have been born without any sense of feelings, because he may be one of the most tortured characters ever in a movie.
While Santa Sangre tries to keep itself down to earth, it still has a beautifully unsettling surreal atmosphere to it. I still feel distanced from this world the Jodorowsky created, but that’s fine because I never want to be there. It’s terrifying. Is it surreal for the sake of being surreal? Or is it because Fenix’s view of reality s distorted due to the abuse and traumas that he has suffered. I like to think that the answer falls in the latter category, especially since we get glimpses of reality throughout the movie.
Santa Sangre is a magnificent piece of film making that may be difficult to sit through for some and may bore others entirely. It is not a movie that is to be watched for solely pure entertainment, but to reflect on your own psyche and your impressions you leave on other people. The personal evils are brought to light in this haunting Jodorowsky film, and I can honestly say that what I have seen, I will not forget.