‘Dacryphilia + Hematolagnia’ Review: Ode to Artaud

Dacryphilia: refers to sexual pleasure or arousal from seeing tears or hearing the sounds of crying. Dacryphilia is a sexual kink or fetish that’s outside of typical sexual behavior. 

Hematolagnia: is a sexual fetish for blood which evokes arousal when present on the fetishist’s sexual partner, especially if nude. It is often accompanied by licking or drinking blood through bloodletting or biting. 

Chapter 1: Her Life

There is a theatre form innovated by Antonin Artaud called the Theatre of Cruelty. It is resultant from the 20th century Surrealist movement. There are techniques associated with this theatrical form. Its goal is to create a dream world using ritual, masks, striking costumes, an absence of scenery, lights, music, all combined with movements to create a dreamlike sequence. Such works are directed towards the emotion and subconscious. Dacryphilia + Hematolagnia, written by Shane Ryan and directed by Lilith Singson and Shane Ryan, fits into this category. Perhaps, for a clearer reading, it is divided into two chapters.

There is no story to follow here, and this might disappoint the traditional viewer. The semblance of a story, the familiarity of order in the narrative, is one of the things we look toward in movies. But that isn’t here. Naturally, this means an attempt at a synopsis is a futile one. The story, at face value, is an expression of its title. It works; a series of shots with naked, lustful, bloodied subjects; a subject who has donned a Japanese mask, superimposed images of blood dripping down aforementioned bodies; and a woman who has mounted a bloodied man. The definition of the title is accomplished. However, the title card poses a question. 

Her life. Whose life? There is a single female subject, but one cannot recognize with this subject beyond form. What the subject looks like is indiscernible because there is a deliberate shadowing of the characters by the director. All we have to ponder upon about “her life” is this bloodied act of lustfulness. Is this what the director meant?

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Chapter 2: Her Death

This occurs in a wasteland. A subject roams through shady thorns. Again, the worship of form is present, and the reading of symbolism can be possible only by the “initiated”. Religious innuendos can be deduced, the clearest being the last shot, a shadowed woman, haloed by a circle of light. That is a universal symbol. But the entirety of this section follows a woman walking through a milieu of thorn, a setting of wasteland and death. What can be deduced is felt. Violence is absent here, and the proclivity towards it is insinuated alone, not carried out. The directors never depict the act of violence itself, just the consequence of it, the relish of it. This is the strength and fraught of Artuad’s Theatre of Cruelty, its infinite openness to interpretations. The directors, to great length, understand and utilize this. 

Dacryphilia + Hematolagnia will be released in 2021 through the upcoming Philia anthology.

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