When you click to watch this film, be sure to hit the CC button and turn on the subtitles.
Winter is a brutal time of the year, so this week has more brutal teddy bears, though these are of a very different variety than last week’s short film. That teddy bear was there to protect us, to keep our dreams safe, but these ones are out for blood.
There’s a lot going on in Sangre de Unicornio by Alberto Vazquez, both on the surface and beneath it.
First, this film is metal as hell. Just dripping with metal. Even the title sounds like the title of a metal album by a band with a name like GodHunters or something similarly brutal and sort of stupid like that. I can almost feel the double bass pedals rattling my chest during certain moments here. It’s a surprisingly serious film, considering it stars teddy bears and unicorns. And it’s drawn almost carelessly.
I’ve talked about animation styles frequently and I often share films that have an aesthetic that I find unpleasant. This is another one of those. It feels hastily drawn, carelessly thrown together, like doodles from my high school notebooks. I much prefer clean and surreal and beautiful animations styles, like this or this or this or this or this. But there’s something that works about this style implemented here. It makes the world feel brutal and haphazard, surreal. It fits the mood of these evil days, of this new winter, with its blustering winds and thickening fogs. I can almost hear the pencil scratching through the animation, like sand in my mouth, grating against my teeth, grinding against my spine. It turns this world of teddies and unicorns into a cruel world waiting to collapse.
Just focus on all the absence. All that blank space in every scene.
All that white.
All that blank nothingness.
It’s cruel. It’s unforgiving. It moves slow, but it pulls me under.
Which brings me to some of the other elements here, which are buried deeper and maybe have nothing to do with the intention of Vazquez.
Why do the teddy bears hunt the unicorns?
I think there are several competing ways to answer this, for me.
The first is that this is about the exploitive nature of humanity. The unicorn’s blood is sweet and wondrous, so we need it. We need it like we need water in our lungs, and we’ll drown if it means the drowning can be sweet and blueberry flavored.
It should be known that we’ve eradicated nearly 50% of the world’s wildlife in the last fifty years. Why?
Greed. Lust. Our desire to conquer. Our unquenchable thirst for beauty and gluttony.
The world has become a mausoleum for the creatures that once lived here. Tigers, so many species of sharks, rhinos, wolves, polar bears, and millions of other creatures. We kill and we kill and we kill, not because of need, but because of desire. Lust for what’s difficult to have.
We rip the teeth out of tigers for jewelry. We grind their bones into powder for virility. We rip of their hides so we can walk on something striped.
We are a cruel and unforgiving species, and we’re capsizing the world. We’ve turned it into a brutal and harsh planet through our own brutality. We paint the world with the horror dreamt inside us.
So too the teddy bears. They want the unicorn blood. Not for sustenance, but for selfishness. They desire the youngest unicorns, for their blood is sweetest.
And the last unicorn suicides itself just to keep itself free of them.
Which maybe makes this more about imperialism, which is, to me, quite related to what I’ve written above. Our desire for more is even at the expense of other humans. Here, the unicorns could be minorities in america or the indigenous people of any country or Palestinians or Chinese workers throwing themselves off Apple factories just to escape. The first world crushes the third world, and we crush those who inconvenience our lives to the point that we’re allowed to murder children in cold blood and have yourself cleared of blame, because that child was probably a thug, am immigrant, or a terrorist.
In this, perhaps Gregorio represents us, our lust and greed and anxieties about the dirt foreigners and terrorists.
But then what is there to say about Moffy?
He seems to want a balance and despises Gregorio’s gluttony, but then he’s also a cruel character, slaughtering all that’s beautiful in the land of teddy bears.
What I initially thought when I saw the unicorn gore Gregorio was that this was an act of rape, of virginity stolen.
Because unicorns have always been related to virginity and the penetrative act of literally goring out an orifice seemed too shocking to be accidental.
This is where Gregorio’s shame and anxiety comes from, why he both fears and hates unicorns, why he must drink their blood. Why he looks at Moffy with so much love and adoration. Moffy is untainted, unviolated. Moffy is strong and beautiful. Moffy deserves the best out of life. It also goes to explain why Moffy is so ruthless in his hunt. They violated his brother, the one he shared a womb with. And yet, at the same time, Moffy remains cruel to Gregorio as well.
Or perhaps none of these things exist in this film. Maybe I’m just shoving in meaning in a story that’s meant to be brutal.
But I can’t help it, as Gregorio becomes human after the Death of the last unicorn, after the warning of the now dead unicorn.
What Sangre de Unicornio does perhaps most of all, and why it succeeds, is that it demands we look closely at what happens and makes us question everything about the film.
My heart beats in blastbeats and there’s violence all the time.