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BERLINALE 2013 Out of competition / Netherlands

Dark Blood, viscerally


- Twenty years after his death, George Sluizer "unfinishes" River Phoenix’s last film

Dark Blood, viscerally

In the short introduction that precedes Dark Blood [+see also:
film profile
, its author, George Sluizer, tells of his great sadness at the death of his actor River Phoenix (photo) while they were actually working together on the film. He explains that 20 years later, aware that he is ill himself, he felt the need to give this “two-legged chair”, which had been abandoned, a third leg that would enable it to stand upright. The result, which he presents as “unfinished” because he has had to replace some missing scenes with his own voice and words, is an unclassifiable movie that Berlin could only show out of competition, incomplete.

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The story of this project, and the fact that throughout the film we gaze at the beautiful face of an actor who we know is going to die, in some way give a fourth leg to this work: it all happens as if its extra-diegetic context has given this reserved and nostalgic film an extra dose of coherence while doubling its visceral energy.

Dark Blood is the story of a couple of tourists who explore the canyons in a Bentley, which breaks down in the fierce and fiery stretches of a desert violated by nuclear tests, then left to die: they ask for the help of a local man with some Indian blood. The woman, Buffy (Judy Davis), is an uninhibited American with tangled hair like those we used to see in road movies in the early '90s. Her husband, Harry (Welsh actor Jonathan Pryce), is a self-centered and irascible movie star who does not understand that time cannot be bought with money. The fellow who offers them inhospitable hospitality is called Boy (River Phoenix), who, since the death of his wife due to radiation, lives in a world both ruthless and magical, composed of amulets and little bells tinkling in the wind.

During a forced cohabitation on both sides, which gives the impression of a scene behind closed doors in the immensity of the desert, the white man meets the native, wisdom meets patience, humility meets ambition, nature meets those responsible for its most deply poisonous wounds (Phoenix was, in fact, an environmental activist), and incomprehension is total, with no way out. For Boy, the fact that there is nothing to do in the desert during the day because it is too hot, during the night because it is too dark, is very natural, but for Harry, it is as despairing as the enigma of the sphynx. Faced with destructive individualism, Boy’s character represents innocence condemned.   

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(Translated from French)

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