Le Sang des bêtes (Blood of the Beasts) (Georges Franju, 1949)
This short film directed by French filmmaker Georges Franju is one of the most beautifully shot black and white surrealist pictures while coldly explaining the slaughter of horses, cattle, and sheeps.
Wandering around the slaughterhouse, Franju’s camera captures foggy images of the city in the opening and the closing minutes of this demonstration of manual work on carcasses and their slaughter. This is a real craftsmanship to butcher and prepare meat for consumption and it is explained that no parts are spared.
Seing these men work smoking cigarettes and whistling while cutting throats and spilling blood of the beasts can be distrbing at first. However, it documents how, for centuries, humanity has prepared its meat to be its meals. Having been a vegetarian myself for a while more than ten years ago, I can understand how PETA could have used those images top illustrate their point and how the actual act of killing animals seems cruel. Starting the movie I was kind of expecting heavy material that would disgust me and schock me. It didn’t really impressed me and this might be because it is shot without any emotion for the beasts and that it is in black and white. Just like Franju said, in colour people would have sensorial reactions. Black and white tend to distance us from the reality of things just like the images of the holocaust have never been that disgusting since they were colorized.
With all that said, Le Sang des bêtes proves that Franju who also directed Eyes Without a Face is a very talented storyteller and knows how to create an atmosphere on films whatever is his subject.