We have to say from the beginning that ‘Blood and Ash‘ is an atypical short film. But this striking quality doesn’t necessarily lie in its noticeable technical qualities or in the directorial vision of Kenneth Sanabria, who offers us an excellent exercise in visual composition. More specifically, the experience we dive into reminds us more of the concept of a theatre performance. We should not understand by this that the director uses a concrete stage space or a play from the universal repertoire. In fact, it is almost impossible not to be fascinated by the theatricality of the characters’ daily rituals inhabiting this miserable and claustrophobic micro-universe. And yet, despite this theatricality, the project avoids the trap of artificiality or exaggerated emphasis. Rather, we are talking about a revisiting of the extremely powerful gestural and scenography minimalism of a film like “The Turin Horse” by Bela Tarr. But also about a strange, morbid atmosphere that pushes the raw realism towards a terrifying experience, which reminds us of Carlos Reygadas’ movies. In the same way, the work of the actors who seem to be inspired by Meyerhold’s biomechanics gives the whole short film the contemplative force of some of Carl Dreyer’s masterpieces. Not coincidentally, we might say, the connections that can be made between all these directors have one more common point that Kenneth Sanabria also adopts: the minimization or total suppression of dialogue. Well, this short film completely rejects the dialogue, a fact that structurally modifies the work of the actors in creating the characters, as well as the coherence of the atmosphere that repeats the pattern of a domestic tragedy.
The story is as simple as it is indigestible: after a failed suicide attempt, a mother must take a stand against her abusive husband, who sequesters his family. But the way in which the director chooses to translate the inner tension of the female protagonist is really impressive. This happens both thanks to the actors and the cinematographic composition itself, whose gloomy, grainy, oppressive pictoriality is articulated around details or even “tableaux vivants” that explore symbols of motherhood and sacrifice, as in the case of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting (“The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne”), which becomes a visual motif. Far from approaching this dysfunctional family nucleus from a pathological perspective, Kenneth Sanabria rather offers us an archetypal scenario, a mythical or biblical pretext hiding behind a realistic context. Thus, ‘Blood and Ash’ is not only a short film that impresses with its memorable aesthetics, but also with its very concept, which can be seen as a bitter allegory about the abysses and strength of a woman’s soul.