Then & Now: Blood and Ice (Quintet 2)

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Geoff Harris

Sometimes, the Universe presents us with little moments of pure joy. Just the other day, I stumbled across a rare gem I haven’t thought about in years. Blood and Ice is a “prequel” to Quintet, which is why it is known in many countries as Quintet 2. This is a very obscure film. It came out in the early days of the direct-to-video movement and I haven’t seen it since. I was lucky to find a copy by sheer chance at a thrift shop and I gleefully snatched it up. Granted, I had to dig out my old VCR and somehow connect it to my ROKU TV. The Universe was smiling upon me and I once again got to watch it.

The plot is really simple. Food is scarce as the second Ice Age, presumably brought on by a war (or maybe global warming, I’m still not sure) slowly engulfs the world. People travel further and further south hoping to beat the cold and outlive those who couldn’t make the trip. The main action takes place in the city of Harmony, a tropical wonderland and perhaps one of the last to exist. Food is beginning to run out. Man has hunted damn near every living thing to the point of mass extinction. There is trouble in paradise. To compensate, the “Powers That Be” have started a mandatory culling of the population. It takes the form of a game called Quintet. Five players all bid to be “The Standing Man.” After the bidding, each player sets out to kill off the others and be the last player remaining. The winner gets a year’s supply of food.

Then

Watching Blood and Ice is like having a fever dream while riding a roller-coaster. The movie has no real cohesive narrative. It moves from scene to scene in a blur of color and abstraction that completely sucked me in. I had no idea how much I loved Dada and Surrealism until I saw this film. It’s a tour-de-force of visual metaphor. The story isn’t told in so much as it is shown through images representing different ideas such as a lion running alongside a zebra in tandem. Not chasing it but beside it. Chimps playing chess. A dog nursing a litter of kittens.

The “game” itself is a reflective metaphor for the decline of the world itself. Human life is becoming less precious. Self-interest is the new currency.  It’s a world very reminiscent of the early eighties and its trend towards excess. One for me, none for you. Rinse, repeat. This went a long way in shaping who I would become and how I feel about people and the urges that propel them. I was just still too young and raw to really understand the deep meanings.

Now

Decades pass. Thoughts and perceptions sharpen or dull. Attitudes refine or are abandoned. Blood and Ice is more relevant now than it was then. It captures a world gone mad. Rulers who ply their citizens with false promises and indulge glutenous desires while the world around them collapses into primordial chaos. Not to mention how seriously weird this movie was. I watched it twice and I still wonder if it’s the same movie I saw when I was younger. The burden of memory is a bitch and this time I find myself questioning my better judgement.  I remember obsessively hunting for this movie every time I went to the video store. (Yes, kids, when we weren’t fighting off dinosaurs we would watch movies on little square boxes that went inside bigger boxes attached to our picture tubes. There were places where the plastic boxes could be found and rented using paper money. Take a moment and catch your breath.) I was pre-pubescent. My brain was already fried from changing hormones. I can understand a lot of the motifs now; utilitarianism rendered into hedonistic nightmare, man’s conscious separation from the beast, psychosexual hybridization, etc. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy rediscovering this lost gem. Far from it. I just remember it differently. Or maybe not at all.

Blood and Ice is not for everyone. If you enjoy abstract films like Upstream Color, then this is your jam. If you get lost watching Inception, skip this one. I’ll be placing my crystals on blue next time and passing to the Sun. Roll the dice. See what happens next.

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