Short Film - By Blood (Par le Sang)

Susan Omand watched Guillaume Enard and Jonathan Delerue’s medieval tale Par le Sang but was she sanguine or bloody minded about the result?..

Once a ruthless war lord who won his land by his sword, Mort-Lieu is now a sick old man. A mysterious knight appears; Mort-Lieu believes the stranger is Death himself coming to get him. Facing his own end, Mort-Lieu has to confront his legacy.

Having read the synopsis for this Belgian short film and seen that atmospheric publicity image (at the top of this article) I was really looking forward to this as I enjoy a good, dark, historical tale and, given the fact that film and cast are both already award winners, this should have been well up there.

Well, it wasn’t bad as a short film but, for me, it wasn’t award winning either. Maybe I was expecting too much from it, wanting it to be like the swords and sorcery tales from back in the day – Ladyhawke, Excalibur et al – and the opening scene bore this out to some extent by building intrigue and disquiet, but I guess I have to scale back my thinking to fit the budget for the rest. There was a lot to enjoy in the film, though. The locations were wonderful, the lighting, especially in the battle training scene, was very cleverly done and the soundtracking was superb with Vigué’s music really enhancing the visuals. I also thought the story itself was a great concept and loved the fact that Death, when referred to in the dialogue, was a "she". Acting-wise, Anne Charrier, as the matriarchal figure Alienor, was a standout for me, superb in her delivery, managing to convey both passion and cold indifference on the twist of a single line.

But the rest of it just didn’t quite pull together enough to make it brilliant for me. The editing felt very stilted and disruptive to the flow of the story and Hargrold, the son of Mort-Lieu, really wasn’t believable for me, I felt his character was spoiled by Jonas Bloquet’s “look at me acting” style of acting. And I think the less said about the red tint on the dream sequence the better – just no, okay?

And that’s really a pity because this does have the makings of a solid premise which, indeed, could be award-winning and it would be worth the film-makers revisiting it at a later stage with a different cast and a better effects budget. 

By Blood screens at New Renaissance Film Festival on August 23rd and Toronto Independent Film Festival in September.

Image - Official publicity image
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