The short film Carne (1991) was Gaspar Noe’s prequel to his first feature-length film seven years later, I Stand Alone (Seul Contre Tous). Noe is known for his provocation using anything from sexual violence to heavy drug use to gore. This film, even though it is very early in his filmography, is no different. Therefore, I highly suggest before watching it that you are well aware of your limits. If high levels of violence and disturbingly sexual acts are going to upset you to the point of non-enjoyment, stay away from this movie (or any of his other films). That being said, what we have here is a short 38-minute short film following a horse butcher in France and his deeply depraved life. SPOILERS until the last paragraph.
Carne has a simple but disturbing plot. A horse butcher has a child who he treats like a baby her whole life. As she reaches her pre-teen/teenage years, he still bathes and dresses her and eventually comes to have incestuous thoughts about her. When she has her period one day, he mistakenly believes she is raped and kills a random man in retaliation. After being let out of prison, he sells his butcher shop, marries and impregnates a woman whom he hates, finds his daughter in a mental asylum, and finally drives off to live somewhere far away with his new wife.
To me, the film was trying to achieve a few goals. The first was to show that we now live in a world without morality; that any God or God-like figure goes unheard and that because of this, man is doomed to an immoral, unsatisfying life. The television is on multiple times throughout Carne. During two or three scenes, it seems that the masked man on TV is calling out to the butcher, telling him that there is a possibility of something more – at redemption, happiness, love. But every time this figure is on TV, the butcher switches it off, seemingly oblivious to the words. I don’t believe Noe is trying to say that we need God in our lives to be moral, but instead is using this God-like figure as a way to show man’s unwillingness to better oneself or seek help in doing so.
The second goal was to show our desensitization towards violence. The butcher’s daughter is mute. She is an empty slate brought up by this immoral man in a world literally surrounded by corpses and butchered meat. She is desensitized to the violence that she watches on TV, completely unfazed by the horrific scenes set before her. The scenes of violence on the TV are also the only programs that anyone pays attention to during the film. The butcher’s failings have led to his daughter’s complete desensitization, ultimately leading her to her stay at the asylum. The butcher himself is obviously desensitized as well. His entire life consists of killing animals and butchering meat. Because of this, he attempts to kill an innocent man and tries to kill his new wife’s unborn child through sexual violence.
Overall, Carne is a good film, but unfortunately, I don’t think it is good enough to merit any further re-watches. The film imposes a high level of provocation in nearly every form. While I am not easily turned away by disturbing movies (and I’m not saying that I was in this film), a film that does include that type of content should make it truly worth the watch. Carne simply did not reach that level for me. I appreciate the themes explored and found them to be touched on very intelligently and uniquely; however, much of the value I received came at a price not entirely worth it.
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