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Awww, were you looking for something to watch with that special someone on Valentine’s Day? Here it is. See, all those lovely images of French kids playing Ring-a-ring-o’-roses in the park and beautiful young lovers kissing?

Just make sure you turn it off after like the first minute or so! This is a really short documentary that essentially looks at the working of a slaughterhouse right at the outskirts of Paris. It starts off really casual, almost disarmingly so. Just images like the ones above and a voice-over describing this particular locale outside Paris. The voice then goes on to describe the instruments or tools of slaughter. Here again, the description is mechanical and the voice is decidedly neutral. And then the white horse comes in.

From this point on, the movie is just relentless. It patiently goes through the procedural details of slaughter. The various methods in which these animals are killed, the process of disembowelment and skinning. I didn’t have a good time watching all this. None of it was shocking necessarily. I was quite aware of the process involved even before watching this. Despite this, watching it was still really difficult and affecting. If I wasn’t watching this for the dictator club, I might have closed my eyes at points but under the circumstances, I felt obligated to really watch it. I am not going to post too many screenshots here for obvious reasons but if this here bothers you too much, then you may want to avoid this.

In a way, this reminded me of High School in that the camera just seems to be at this place chronicling whatever is happening around it. There is a voice-over here but the voice-over mostly just discusses technical points. What makes this truly powerful is that the film never feels exploitative or jingoistic or sadistic. It manages to maintain a distance at all times and it never seems to be judging the process. The other thing that struck me is that the doc not only talks about the process but also takes great pains to highlight the skill and danger involved on the part of the people working in the slaughterhouse. Plus, its visually really stunning. Every frame is really poetic and moving and so many of them, even the ones outside the slaughterhouse really stayed with me.

Admittedly, this is not an easy watch. Nevertheless, I think it’s a great documentary to watch. It’s great filmmaking for one thing and is incredibly thought-provoking.

I shall strike you without anger and without hate, like a butcher-Baudelaire

Grade: B+

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