George Franju’s 1949 film Le Sang Des Bêtes (“Blood of the beasts”) is one of the most beautiful and horrifying movies ever made. Filmed in the backstreets of Paris, Franju contrasts bucolic scenes of fog-shrouded streets, canals, deserted junkyards and children playing, with the nightmarish events taking place within two slaughterhouses. Marcel Fradetal’s stunning black and white cinematography turns the horrific into a brutal kind of poetry that if it had been shot in color would be unbearable.
Observing the workers going about their gruesome work with emotionless efficiency is the most disturbing aspect of the film for me. How much of our humanity is sacrificed for a plate of meat? Franju’s intent may have been no more than to compose a work of visual art, but as I watched Le Sang Des Bêtes I couldn’t help but be reminded of the fact that France was still reeling from the effects of years of savage warfare.
In these images of animals being murdered I am aware of the thin line between man and beast, killing one is not so very much different from killing the other. Is not the abattoir a concentration camp for animals? Is the flesh of the beasts any less sacred than our own? Or have we arrived at the place where nothing is sacred? And if so, isn’t that Hell?
Outside the walls of the abattoir we watch life go on, while inside we watch it come to a cruel and bloody end in Le Sang Des Bêtes.