By Blood

Behind the cold and harsh walls of medieval castle lives a king. He has built a legacy with ruthless violence and bloodshed. But now, when death creeps around the misty hills surrounding the castle, the ill king is faced with burning fear. Are his successors – who have lived in the deep shadows of his success – capable to endure the legacy that he has built? Is he ready to fade away from the honor and accomplishments that are the essence of him?

When the last scene of a French historical drama “Par le Sang” fades into black, we know. We know the pain of a dying king in an era when the king materialized the fortune and the code of the castle and when average life expectancy rarely reached forty. And we know the significance and ache of bloodline flowing amidst the stones, shields, and swords making the reality of the Middle Ages. Writer-directors Jonathan Delerue and Guillaume Enard – the hardworking rising stars of French cinema – take us to the historical tour with cinematically polished way.

The tour starts with a fearful arrival of a dark knight. He stops near the rocky hills of the castle, just in the line of sight for its residents, the king Mort-Lieu and his family. The arrival of a threat amplifies Mort-Lieu’s fear of death and causes conflict within the hierarchical dynamics of the family. And so the artistically beautifully built stage is set for the battle of honor and legacy.

The clearly structured narrative of “Par le Sang” points to the ability of the authors to create strong, straightforward and psychologically precise stories that carry the weight of their historical contexts. The film combines solidly written dialogue with top-notch visuals to vitalize the heavy setting of the era. As the story advances and introduces the stylishly choreographed fighting sequences, the notion that the authors have good control over their vision will be further confirmed. Furthermore, the solidly assembled cast gives an overall good era-specific performance.

Every detail is well put together and has significance to the narrative. For example, the violent acts encapsulate the thoughts and feelings the characters are incapable to communicate in another form, while the beautiful and natural lightning design pinpoints the emotional dynamics of the story. The solid camerawork works sensibly with the lightning design as well as with the clean set design creating absorbingly historical settings. The portrayal of the Middle Ages is therefore familiar but also nuanced.

Although as an historical drama “Par le Sang” lacks socially and politically relevant narrative or thematic connections to the present of the moviegoer, the psychological currents that the characters undergo are recognizable. “Par le Sang” effectively presents the aches of dying patriarch and the agony of a neglected son without being a passive dialogue-heavy stage play. And thereby “Par le Sang” displays the morality of a man of the era with style and detail making it cinematically polished piece of historically and psychologically sensitive filmmaking. With films like “Par le Sang”, the past will never fade away.