I’ve only recently discovered young Chilean director Pablo Larrain, but can readily see he is set for greater things. He breaks away from the typical Latin American mould to fluidly incorporate stylistic elements from other cinema particularly from northern Europe, and his visuals and pace could very well be mistaken for a Michael Haneke or Thomas Winterberg were it not for his films’ explicitly political and Chilean subject matter.
Larrain’s excellent drama “Post Mortem” is set against Chile’s most momentous and infamous event in its recent history, the 1973 coup d’état that overthrew an elected left-wing government and eventually brought Gen. Augusto Pinochet to power. Cleverly using that backdrop to highlight an apolitical protagonists’ silent despair, it observes how desperate people act and react to certain circumstances.
Mario is a middle-aged civil servant, a recorder at a government hospital morgue. He is also a singleton with old fashioned beliefs, and spurns advances from a female colleague because he believes she is sleeping around. But for all his high morals, he couldn’t help falling in love with neighbour Nancy, a thirty-something performer at a burlesque club, despite knowing she already has a boyfriend, and perhaps several other men whom she may need to please in order to get by. But Nancy, an anorexic and having issues of her own, is non-committal and only willing to offer him the occasional sexual relief. Her father is a member of the communist party, and her house frequently becomes a political meeting place among colleagues. But when the military stage a coup, Nancy’s father and brother are taken away, and she ends up living in a disused store room at the back of her house. Mario brings her food and a radio. But soon, Mario will be recording Nancy’s autopsy…
One of the notable aspects of the film is its cinematography which has a distinct dogme 95 feel about it, unusual frame aspect notwithstanding. But it works brilliantly here, especially during the long penultimate scene where we don’t get to see a face – just the act of furniture being piled on top of each other. The film is slow but adequately paced, and the only music I remember is during the end credits. The performances by main actors, Alfredo Castro who plays Mario, and Antonia Zegers who plays Nancy are suitably subdued for the tone of the film. It may be mildly amusing in some scenes you wouldn’t expect, but is nevertheless an unsettling film that convey’s the message quite eloquently – Highly Recommended Viewing..!