Blood of My Blood

(Sangue del mio sangue, Marco Bellocchio, Italy, 2015)


Blood of My Blood has a dual structure that brings together, ingeniously, the dramatic and satirical veins of Marco Bellocchio’s great career.


Its first tale, set in the 17th century, returns to the more-or-less feminist ground of his 1980s films, detailing the brutal, church-sanctioned inquisition of a nun, Benedetta (Lidiya Liberman), accused of being in league with Satan and pushing a priest to suicide through her seductive wiles. In a dark inversion of My Mother’s Smile (2001) with its process of testing for saintliness, here it is a woman’s inner demon that must be gruesomely verified.


Every detail of the status quo here is caught in a serial mirroring: rows of identical-looking nuns and monks, two giggly sisters, and look-alike brothers (played by Bellocchio’s son, Pier Giorgio Bellocchio) who both, ultimately, react to Benedetta’s libido in exactly the same, disavowing, repressive way.


Jump to the present-day: the same convent, long deserted by religion, is now the hideout for an ancient vampire, Count Basta (Roberto Herlitzka, another Bellocchio regular). The film uses this device as comical allegory: Basta, as it transpires, presides over a secret society that controls virtually every arm of the State, from police and the law courts to hospitals and the media. As always in Bellocchio’s work of the 21st century, the shadow of corrupt, right-wing politics under Silvio Berlusconi is never far away as a sore point of reference.


Even the most conventional screenwriting manuals from Hollywood today preach that, if you are going to use a tricky mosaic of several different, largely disconnected plots, you must still structure them with the expected turning points, climax and resolution of a single story. And Bellocchio is, in fact, a master at achieving just this effect.


At the very moment that the vampire Basta in Blood of My Blood begins to die at dawn from his “rigidity”, his inability to adapt and change with history, the film jumps to a point in time when Benedetta, in the first tale, walled up for decades, is finally about to be absolved and set free by the very man who condemned her to this fate.


In the ensuing brilliant sequence that was in fact filmed with a filmmaking class in Bobbio back in 2009, Benedetta emerges: young, naked and beautiful, as the priest falls down dead. In Bellocchio’s cinema, the revenge of the female libido is sweet indeed.

MORE Bellocchio: Good Morning, Night, Fists in the Pocket

© Adrian Martin January 2018

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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