|Review by Elizabeth Weitz|
Gored is the story of Antonio Barrera, the “Most Gored Bullfighter” in the world, a title that has more psychological implications than actual physical ones if you can believe that.
After being stabbed in the body 23 times by bulls (once so severe that he actually died for a few minutes), Barrera is facing his final fight in the ring, not so much by choice but for the love of his family.
A love, that in all honesty, pales to his need to be spiritually bonded to both animal and the prospect of death.
The dance between Matador and bull is a violent ballet that ends when the beast (which can be man or animal depending on your perspective) is finally brought to his knees via sword or horn.
For Barrera, this dance has more often ended in his body being ripped apart (a prospect that would keep most bullfighters from re-entering the sport after the first time a horn gores the flesh), but even having tubes shoved down his throat to keep him breathing isn’t enough to stop him from going back into the ring to finish a fight; no, Barrera simply rips out the tubes, hobbles in front of the bull and confronts, not an animal, but the physical symbol of death itself and completes the “tercio de muerte” (part of death) where the sword will kill the bull swiftly, in honor of its fight.
It is both brutal and beautiful to witness. Harsh as life itself, cruel even, but you can’t help but stand in awe of both Barrera and Bull.
The journey of Barrera as a Matador is a complex one (especially if you are an animal lover and grew up outside the culture of bullfighting) and the end of his career, this giving up of what makes him whole, is difficult to watch, heartbreaking even and you are left to wonder how a man can live without the very thing that binds him to the world.
Will he fade away into the ether of normal banality or find the kind of resolve in himself that was once reserved for the storied rings of Seville, Spain?
Can a man so closely marked both in flesh and spirit ever really leave the dance behind?
As a documentary, Gored, gives you an idea of who Barrera is, allows you a taste of the psychology behind a bullfighter’s life, but its running time of 75 minutes feels too short to really give you an understanding of the man and what the future holds for him.
But perhaps that is well and good in the end.
Maybe we learn all we need to in those mere minutes and the gnawing for more knowledge of Barrera comes not for our own edification for information about the man but the need, nay, the desire to test ourselves against the death that Barrera sought for himself.
Perhaps Barrera is who we wish we could be when we think of bravery and the beauty/brutality of humanity. Maybe we all need to “bailar con la muerte” (dance with death) in order to really feel alive…who knows.
Maybe that’s what we are to take away from his story.