Besides providing the catalyst for many to go vegetarian, The Blood of the Beasts manages to stay relevant today thanks to its propensity to incite, shock, and mesmerize even the most jaded of viewers. The film’s visceral documentation of a Parisian slaughterhouse retains its strength perhaps due to the unrepentant gaze of the camera, which looks on at actions as they unfold as indifferently as the worker who executes them. The workers, moreover, appear as mere cogs in a machine, in a way that eerily anticipates the development of the modern meat-processing industry.
Interestingly enough, Franju did not intend for the material to physically repel viewers, and chose to use black & white film stock over color in order to mitigate any sense of revulsion the viewer might have. He said: “If it were in color, it’d be repulsive […] the sensation people get would be a physical one.” If anything, the reaction Franju hoped to engender was a cerebral one, connected with the unique presentation of documentary form. The film strikes an odd balance between surrealism and realism – brought to the fore by Hubert’s flat non-emotive narration (a technique borrowed from Luis Bunuel’s Las Hurdas: Tierra Sin). This is apparent in the opening scene, which remains strikingly at odds with the rest of the film. After initially setting the scene in the pastoral French countryside, the camera quite literally stumbles upon the prosaic object of the film, in a way that accurately reflects the incidental nature of its very production. Franju himself admitted that when he started shooting, “he wasn’t interested in the subject of slaughterhouses […] but the location around the building.” However, it is within this new contextual setting that “the object rediscovers its quality as an object,” suggesting that documentary objectivity hinges on a lyrical counterpoint.