Film bits and bobs
Longer version of piece published by Sight & Sound as part of coverage of the Cult programme at the London Film Festival 2015
Like necrophiles, cinephiles dream that the object of their affection, though flat, cold and unresponsive, is somehow alive, and not merely a blank repository for their own projected feelings and fantasies – and so they devote themselves to preserving and penetrating the memories of the past and the dead. This is why necrophilia is one of cinema’s most reflexive themes: films that are set in morgues, and explore the perverse one-way relationships between mortuary attendants and corpses on the slab, tend to catch us viewers in the act, confronting us with our own compulsive fetish for mummified movie remains.
As Hèctor Hernández Vicens’ briskly paced feature debut The Corpse of Anna Fritz introduces three young men (Albert Carbó, Bernt Saumell, Cristian Valencia) who sneak into a hospital morgue, first for a peek at the naked corpse of the recently deceased Anna Fritz (Alba Ribas), and then for more intimate, invasive contact with the body, all this was on my mind – not least because Anna is, or was, expressly a movie-star, so that these young men are physically negotiating their proximity to, and distance from, cinema’s fantasy world.
Yet while at first the film is apparently reimagining fellow Spaniard Nacho Cerdà’s notorious morgue-set short Aftermath (1994), and throwing in the celebrity body politic from Brandon Cronenberg’s ANTIVIRAL (2012), soon these opportunists’ intended necrophilia becomes redefined as unintended assault, and from both their internal struggle to determine which transgression’s discovery might be worse and their desperation to wipe away any moral stain, a disappointingly conventional thriller emerges. This rape-revenance plays like an elongated version of the hospital sequence from Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) – although its games of table-(and slab-)turning are certainly tense.