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Film / Flesh+Blood

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Flesh+Blood is a 1985 dramatic adventure film directed by Paul Verhoeven, set in The Renaissance (in Italy, it seems) though the themes are more typical of The Middle Ages and often is called a medieval drama. The first American movie from Dutch director Verhoeven, it stars Rutger Hauer and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Basil Poledouris composed the soundtrack.

The movie centers around a gang of mercenaries and thieves lead by Martin (Hauer), who find themselves in an Army of Thieves and Whores, which their noble employer refuses to pay after having used them to regain a city. The ungrateful nobleman is Arnolfini, whose son Steven is a dorky but attractive young man who is interested more in learning than fighting and whoring, unlike most of the people he hangs out with. His father has arranged his marriage with a beautiful, highborn, and virgin young girl named Agnes (Leigh), but Steven is not interested at all until, y'know, he sees her. Agnes is beautiful and very interested in learning how seduce men and enjoy love. While they are enjoying their blossoming romance, they are caught by Martin's gang, who start a fight with Arnolfini's men and rob them. Agnes founds herself unfortunately hidden in the gang's chariot, and when they discover her, she's raped by Martin who's manipulated by Agnes in falling and caring for her (though the attraction is somewhat mutual) and so he wants to keep her to himself. Steven does not give up and tries to regain his girlfriend storming the castle where she hides in, while we don't know how much exactly Agnes is manipulating Martin to stay alive until the very end.


This film contains examples of:

  • '80s Hair: They were cool even in The Renaissance!
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Obviously what drives Agnes' attraction to Martin.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Steven and Agnes reunite, but Agnes sees Martin being alive and says nothing to Steven, leaving open if Martin will come back or not. It's also entirely possible that she has the plague, and even if she doesn't some of the prisoners taken in the final battle do, so they could spread it among the soldiers and their home city.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Martin gives one to Agnes before trying to kill her.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The noble Arnolfini does not keep his promise to let the mercenaries plunder the city. Instead, he orders his soldiers to disarm them and to chase them out of the city.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: The gang of Martin is made of misfits, prostitutes and their children, a crank priest... and they fight as mercenaries for Arnolfini.
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  • Arranged Marriage: Agnes and Steven, and he's not pleased... initially.
  • Arson, Murder, and Admiration: After Steven's wife is kidnapped by mercenaries, he and his father go to the mercenaries' former commander Hawkwood. Steven bullies him into helping get her back by threatening the woman Hawkwood is caring for. As Steven has been portrayed up till now as rather bookish and ineffectual, his father laughs and notes with approval, "You're as ruthless as I am!" Steven just replies grimly, "When I have to be."
  • Badass Book Worm: Steven is mainly interested in studying, but he can fight too. During the opening battle, he wanted to fight, but his father prevented him from it. After Agnes is kidnapped, he leads the attack against the mercenaries and he uses his scientific knowledge in the battle.
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: The final fight between Martin, Steven and Agnes happens as the castle is in fire.
  • Betty and Veronica: Agnes is desired by noble gentleman Steven and adventurous mercenary Martin.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Steven attacks Martin when he is trying to strangle Agnes.
    • Agnes knocks Martin out when he is trying to drown Steven.
  • The Black Death: There is an epidemic of plague. Hawkwood is infected but survives thanks to Steven proposing an alternative treatment to bleeding. Many of the thieves die from it after being infected by Hawkwood, who has catapulted body parts of an infected dog in the castle.
  • Bookends: Opens and closes with a siege.
  • The Cavalry: In the end, Steven is chained and Martin is in the well, so Agnes is alone with the mercenaries with nobody to protect her. Then Arnolfini returns with an army and besieges the castle.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Celine to Martin, and she's the first to notice his affection towards Agnes.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: When he realizes that Steven will recover Agnes, Martin confesses that he loves her, then he tries to kill her.
  • Creepy Child: Anna's son, who plays drums while watching a girl being raped.
  • Covers Always Lie: At no point in the film does Agnes actually wear a pink dress unlike the poster.
  • Damsel in Distress: Agnes is kidnapped by a gang of thieves and Steven, his father and Hawkwood fight to deliver her. Subverted because Agnes appears to develop some form of Stockholm Syndrome: she has feelings for her kidnapper, Martin. Also subverted because she saves her saviour, Steven, when Martin tries to drown him.
  • Death by Irony: The Cardinal gets stabbed by the St. Martin statue.
  • Death of a Child: Little John, the boy who is part of the gang of thieves dies from the plague.
  • Fanservice: Agnes (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is often nude. The bath scene is of particular note. Polly (Marina Saura) is also often topless.
  • Fille Fatale: Agnes shows signs of this in her early scenes. Later combined with The Vamp.
  • The Fundamentalist: The Sinister Minister who joins the gang.
  • If I Can't Have You…: Martin says that if he can't have Agnes he prefers rather killing her and almost does so.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: When Agnes' handmaid is having sex with a soldier, Agnes spies them, then interrupts them.
  • I Will Find You: Steven spends most of the movie trying to get Agnes again.
  • Ill Girl: The girl who lived in the castle that Martin sacked.
  • Instant Illness: The mercenaries are exposed to the plague by drinking water taken from a well which infected dog meat fell into the night before. Some of them start showing symptoms before they've finished breakfast.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Martin is an unrepentant rapist and villain, and escapes free with his loot at the end.
    • Arnolfini caused the whole mess by his double-crossing of the mercenaries, and he still makes it out alive, with a profitable marriage for his son, and most of the dowry recoverable in the ruins of the castle.
  • Kill 'Em All: All the members of the gang except Martin.
  • Naughty Under the Table: Agnes uses what appear to be near-prehensile toes to great effect vis-a-vis Martin's codpiece.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: There are tensions inside the gang of thieves: Celine is jealous because Martin is attracted to Agnes; Karsthans would like to rape Agnes and he is not happy that Martin wants to keep her for himself; in the end, the thieves hold Martin responsible for the plague and hurl him into the well.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Steven's rolling bomb design would be a lot more reliable and safer to use if people waited until the man rolling the bomb into position signaled before they lit the fuse. The first time it's used, it fails because the bomb goes off before it's in position, killing the roller. The second time, it works, but the man rolling it still only barely gets clear before it blows.
  • Pink Is Erotic: In the poster above, Agnes wears a pink dress and wants to learn how to seduce older men. Subverted in the actual film, where she is seen wearing blue, red or white dresses.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: A nightmarish one.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Lot of this.
  • Screaming Birth: Celine carries a child who turns out to be stillborn.
  • Son of a Whore: Anna's son and Celine's stillborn one.
  • Sinister Minister: The priest who is with Martin's gang and believes them to be protected by St. Martin.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: It's not clear how much Agnes fakes her attraction to Martin.
  • Storming the Castle: Three times. Once when taking Arnolfini's city, once when Martin captures himself a castle of his own, and once when the castle is retaken.
  • The Vamp: It's shown that Agnes has always been manipulative for her own advantage, when she lures her servant to show her how she has sex with a man, then seduces Steven who initially refused to be engaged, and then manipulates Martin in taking her for himself so she won't be gang-raped. Her flesh is the only power she has.
  • Villainous Crush: The source of all troubles for Martin.
  • Virgin Power: What attracts Martin in Agnes
  • Worst Aid: Bleeding. Hawkwood also performs an alternative procedure of lancing plague boils with a decidedly unsanitary looking implement, though the fact that he was already dying of the plague makes secondary infections a secondary problem.


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