Film Review: Blood of the Beasts (Le Sang des bêtes) (short film) (1949)

SYNOPSIS:

An early example of ultra-realism, this movie contrasts the quiet, bucolic life in the outskirts of Paris with the harsh, gory conditions inside the nearby slaughterhouses. Describes the fate of the animals and that of the workers in graphic detail.

REVIEW:

An older short film from 1949 that has often been noted for its extreme characteristics. Called by its French name of “Le Sang des bêtes”, Blood of the Beasts begins much in the style of older films from that generation. Its peaceful suburban scenery is set within a Parisian town as we are told about the gates of Paris and an uncertain future. While this tranquil beginning sets the stage for a quaint tale, its purpose is rooted in telling us of the local slaughterhouse and its instruments of death used against the animals. We are told that the specialty is in the slaughtering of horses.

The tools used? a brush and reed, English axe, and bear pistol (bolt by impact). Shot in black and white we are exposed to the tactics used on camera as they slaughter the animals using several of these methods. The black and white keeps the footage from presenting itself in a full color extreme manner, but none-the-less, this real footage is jarring enough even without the exhaustion of red added to its palette. A horse is shot in the head with a bear pistol and then finished by way of a slit to its neck. This mammoth animal is then taken into the slaughterhouse for a de-skinning which is accomplished using compressed air injected between its skin.

As the horse is butchered further we are told about how its parts are used (even the purpose of souvenirs). Though the job is not without its danger, which comes with using a variety of razor sharp blades sometimes resulting in the accidental severing of one’s arteries.

The film lasts approximately 22 minutes and makes no excuse for its realism and documentation of the day-to-day process the workers endure for our consumption.

A cow is knocked to the ground with a blow to the head while the workers drain it of its blood and further fracture its skull. It is then filleted and chopped at until it can be cut down into raw meat. In some of the more emotional scenes, young calfs are laid across grated metal tables and butchered alive while the warehouse floor continues to fill from the blood letting. Cries of the animals signal quick death as they are brought in and beheaded in front of the rest.

Blood Of The Beasts” is an odd entry in extreme cinema as its appeal is presented in a historical documentary fashion that is interjected within scenic footage of Paris. The film would never receive a commercial release outside of its Paris location (and probably just as well).

Blood Of The Beasts” was one of the earliest short films documenting animal cruelty. While it would appear that the film was directed to shock and disturb, it also happens to be something that we live with everyday as we consume cattle, pig and other farm animals in our day to day fast food consumption. Perhaps its best not to see the “wizard behind the curtain” when it comes to food consumption. But for those who do…..it’s not a pretty sight.

Blood of the Beasts (Le Sang des bêtes) (short film) (1949)

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