Exploring the Relationship Between Monster and Morality
by Emma Moon
In the film Bones and All, Luca Guadagino explores the relationship between animalistic hunger and the desire to retain humanity and morality by focusing on two young cannibals. While Guadagino increases the violence and hunger as the film steadily progresses, he often pairs these scenes with intimate conversations about longing for normalcy and defining what is “good.” For instance, after Lee describes his father’s death and his first “feed” in gory detail, Lee and Mareen agree to become normal. Lee says, “You want to be people? Let’s be people.” Mareen similarly struggles throughout the majority of the film as well. After helping to murder and eat a carnival worker, Mareen says, “We should feel something.” In an effort to show the distinction between animal and human, Guadagino creates startling contrasts between the visuals (extreme violence, feeding, etc.) and dialogue (falling in love, trying to be good, etc.) that often mirrors the difference between animal and human. For example, in the movie still, Lee can be seen violently hitting someone with a golf club. To add to the image, blood is splattering on a clearly angry and relentless Lee. Although the characters have done equally violent things in real life, this specific image is a product of an anxiety-ridden dream that Mareen experiences because of her actions throughout the film. Not only does she feel guilty which shows her morality, but she also awakes to a clearly concerned and in-love Lee. These distinctions are present from the beginning to the end.
Guadagino also creates distinctions through the other characters that are introduced. Throughout the movie, Mareen and Lee frequently encounter other feeders like Sully, Jake, and Brad. While Mareen and Lee consistently struggle with their eating habits, Guadagino creates a moral spectrum related to how one eats. Essentially, there is a moral hierarchy between being a cannibal and a murderer based on the level of consciousness that the “feeder” has. For example, Lee is obviously disgusted by Sully’s habit of keeping his victim’s hair and by how Jake eats humans bones and all. Although Mareen and Lee both have moments of pure animalistic behavior (murdering for food, eating on all fours, etc.), they consistently feel guilt and long to be seen as moral. In his last moments, Lee repeatedly asks Mareen if he is good. Although he later asks her to feed on him while he dies, Lee’s concern is his morality as his end approaches. Even though Mareen and Lee are never able to fully rid themselves of the urge to feed, they never succumb completely to their deepest urges. As his movie closes, Guadagino begs the viewer to question whether this concern but inability to rid themselves of hunger is enough.
Bones and All. Dir. Luca Guadagino. Metro Goldwyn Mayor Inc., 2022.