I saw this movie at some point in my adolescence, and consequently only had these bizarre snippets of memories of it. So, re-watching Flesh + Blood (1985) as an adult, I can really only say that the bizarre snippets of memories only make slightly less sense than the actual film, and surprisingly, the costumes are the least awful thing about it. The plot was apparently hacked together by committee, winding up a weird love triangle between Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rutger Hauer, and Tom Burlinson (who you might remember for not being as famous as either of those two), when originally director Paul Verhoeven intended it to be some artistic statement about the vagaries of the loyalty and friendship between Hauer’s character and another guy who ends up being in the film for all of 10 total minutes.
Also, hoo boy does this film have a lot of rape in it. And a lot of other types of violence and disgusting human behavior, not to mention animal cruelty, and, well, a lot of mud and blood and vomit. It’s like the pinnacle of the “middle ages were an abject shitshow of humanity” cinematic trope. All I’m saying is that if you haven’t seen this film before, and you’re the least bit squeamish, you might give it a pass. Apparently some versions have the rape scenes edited out, but then that makes me wonder how long the resulting film is … 45 minutes? Because, seriously, we’re talking a lot of rape.
So, on to the costumes. They were designed by Yvonne Blake, who is notable for having designed the costumes for The Three and Four Musketeer films, Goya’s Ghosts (2006), and Carmen (2003), so while these costumes aren’t perfect, they’re still pretty solid. The film is set in 1501, but in a nondescript European country (maybe Italy? the protagonist is the heir to the Arnolfini family), but the women’s costumes all look very Germanic and from a decade or two later. The men’s costumes could go either way between early 16th-century German and early 16th-century Italy. Aside from lacking clarity on where the action is taking place, at least Blake apparently looked at more than one historical source before designing the costumes, so there’s some internal consistency.
All in all, I think I can easily go another 30 years without watching Flesh+Blood, but at least the costumes made it somewhat worth my time.
What did you think of the costumes in Flesh+Blood (1985)? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!