Home  •  About  •  Contact  •  Twitter  •  Google+  •  Facebook  •  Tumblr  •  Youtube  •  RSS Feed
Post Mortem

Post Mortem

By Ben Nicholson • April 15th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Autentike Films, Canana Films, Fabula

Original release (UK): September 9th, 2011
Running time: 98 minutes

Country of origin: Chile
Original language: Spanish with English subtitles

Writer and director: Pablo Larraín

Cast: Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zegers

It can be very hard to separate politics and film, and even the biggest of blockbusters may have a political message subtly intertwined with their narrative (or not so subtly in many cases). Even when this is not obvious, the world and national politics – usually of the filmmaker – will often have some effect on the plot or the characters.

Is it a coincidence that Renoir made La Grande Illusion whilst Nazi power was rising? In the case of Pablo Larraín’s sophomore film, Tony Manero, he took the political situation of Pinochet’s Chile and against that backdrop set a gripping portrait of a psychopath serial killer who is obsessed with John Travolta’s disco dancing character from Saturday Night Fever. The emotive political subject, which is clearly something that Larraín is passionate about and feels is important to view through his camera lens, was used to form the world that might create a character like Tony.

As with that film, the political situation in Chile is not the focus of Post Mortem but is intertwined with the twists and turns of the narrative – what twists and turns there are. The film takes place around the 1973 military Coup d’Ėtat which saw the fall of Allende and the rise of Pinochet.

Post Mortem

The central character does get swept up in these events and is involved with the military – even if not necessarily of his own free will. The story itself though is a dark and somewhat tragic love story set in the bleak world of Chilean politics of the 70′s.

Mario (Alfredo Castro) is the clerk in a morgue in Santiago in the final few days of President Salvador Allende, and although he remains mostly wordless during the opening, we learn that he is in love with, or infatuated with, a gaunt burlesque dancer who lives across the street, Nancy Puelma (Antonia Zegers). They begin a relationship of sorts and then, on the morning of the Coup, Nancy disappears.

One of the things that really must be commended about this film, above all else, is the performance from Alfredo Castro. As with his performance in Tony Manero, he is absolutely scintillating as Mario, and despite long takes with only a small amount of action it’s very hard to take your eyes off him. There is also an almost painful awkwardness that pervades much of the early part of the film as Mario is clearly an outsider, and the unease of his very presence in some scenes is palpable.

Post Mortem

He goes over to Nancy’s house to call on her one evening and there is a meeting of a group of dissidents involving her brother; Mario stands at the door waiting and as Larraín’s camera sits unwavering and watching him, the discomfort raises inextricably. Castro treats us to the portrait of an excruciatingly lonely man who does not necessarily desire something different except in his pursuit of Nancy.

We see him step outside to water his front yard at the exact moment Nancy arrives home, and then seem puzzled and annoyed when the dancers come out on to the stage at the Bim Bam Bum club and she is not among them. He leaves the performance immediately and goes backstage ignoring the young voluptuous girls running past with little in the way of clothing on – it is Nancy he is seeking. Their relationship is oddly cold, yet through the sense of sadness and sorrow, there at least seems to be companionship on either side, and it is very clear that Mario has feelings for his neighbour.

When she disappears during the Coup, Mario lies about his relationship with her and attempts to locate her even though it may endanger his own life, whilst his attempt to help another man ends only in the victim’s death.

Post Mortem

There is very little emotion conveyed through Mario’s worn face and lank grey hair however, the turmoil that he is in becomes apparent and is brought to a climax with an absolutely fantastic final scene – wonderfully shot and at the same time absolutely devastating. Personally, it sticks in my memory like the final scenes of classics like The Third Man and The Italian Job, and I can’t see my vivid memory of it fading any time soon.

On the whole the film is languorous in execution, pale in colour palette and incredibly atmospheric as people walk the halls of the morgue or the desolate streets of the city. There is no need to rush as Mario picks his way around Nancy’s ruined house, or to look away as the Pinochet top-brass stand sullenly and watch him struggling to use a typewriter.

Despite how odd and cold the film is, it is certainly gripping throughout; another very good movie from Larraín and another great performance from Castro – I can’t wait to see what they do next.

Ben Nicholson

Ben Nicholson

Ben has had a keen love of moving images since his childhood but after leaving school he fell truly in love with films. His passion manifests itself in his consumption of movies (watching films from all around the globe and from any period of the medium’s history with equal gusto), the enjoyment he derives from reading, talking and writing about cinema and being behind the camera himself having completed his first co-directed short film in mid-2011.

His favourite films include things as diverse as The Third Man, In The Mood For Love, Badlands, 3 Iron, Casablanca, Ran and Grizzly Man to name but a few.

Ben has his own film site, ACHILLES AND THE TORTOISE, and you can follow him on Twitter @BRNicholson.

© 2012 STATIC MASS EMPORIUM . All Rights Reserved. Powered by METATEMPUS | creative.timeless.personal.   |   DISCLAIMER, TERMS & CONDITIONS