Meat (aka Vlees, 2010) is a Netherlands film directed by Victor Nieuwenhuijs and Maartje Seyferth. Artsploitation Films has finally given Meat a US release, although I say “finally” a bit tongue in cheek – whether or not anyone was clamoring for a US release, I don’t know, but this isn’t like some underground classic that is finally seeing the light of day.
I’ve noticed a trend among lower budget, art house-style films: if you’re confused and lost fifteen minutes from the end, it’s unlikely they’re going to bring that moment of clarification. There’s no “aha!” plot thread to snap everything into place. Granted, I say that as someone who likes art house, and some films can be both ambiguous and compelling.
Meat riffs on some potentially interesting themes and ideas. Sex is a constant overtone, following a large, sweaty butcher (played by Titus Muizelaar) who thinks he’s God’s gift. His leering eyes follow his employee, Roxy (Nellie Benner), a gaze that quickly turns into a physical harassment. Meat presents us a context to explore ideas of consent, the grotesque nature of the butcher’s overpowering stature, the toxic wisp of sweet nothings that he guides into her ear – the dominoes get carefully propped up during the movie’s first 45 minutes. But after the murder of the butcher, the story flips to Inspector Mann, where the plot spirals into a hazy sequence of scenes that pick up on the police procedure of interviews and flashbacks and a general sense of incoherence spiraling around sex, the dichotomy of the butcher/inspector characters, Roxy’s relationships, and a weird bit of hopping about in the narrative as the timeline blurs.
The possibility for something compelling is here, but none of the dominoes–no matter how finely propped – are able to hit another to create that falling chain reaction. Without the payoff, Meat is just a bunch of erotically-tinged scenes and images, which might be enough for some people. Eroticism sells, after all. But despite the sex, the nudity, and the generally adult nature of Meat, it’s a very unsexy movie. It takes place in a butchershop, after all. With a despicable man who wields his dick like a meat cleaver. Few people will watch this and find their libido aided.
Several things might be seen as redeeming qualities, depending on the viewer: 1. Muizelaar gives a helluva performance. He plays two characters here, well enough that I didn’t even know they were both him until the credits rolled. 2. The sound in the movie is stellar–at least, in that horrifying way that the wet slop and bone-thud of meat cleaving can be. The slop-thud gets duplicated (albeit with a different timbre) during the intercourse. Even little details like the constantly ringing phone in the police station is easy to ignore consciously, but really gives an anxious edge to Inspector Mann’s office scenes.
Plenty of movies that aren’t underground classics can be worthy of international viewership, unfortunately Meat is something of a mess, making it a hard film to recommend.