Tagline: September 11th 1973. A bloody revolution in Chile. He had to deal with the bodies. He chose the wrong time to fall in love.
Directors: Pablo Larrain
Cast: Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zegers, Amparo Noguera, Jamie Vadell and Marcelo Alonso
Distributor: Network Releasing
Release date: 23rd January 2012
Set in Chile in the final days of the Presidency of Salvador Allende, Post Mortem follows lonely civil servant Mario (Alfredo Castro) as he falls for the showgirl Nancy (Antonia Zegers) who lives across the street. Mario works for the coroner transcribing autopsy reports. His life is quiet and unremarkable, in fact he is a generally unremarkable man in all respects, introverted and withdrawn, and keeping social contact to a minimum. However his strange relationship with Nancy grows into something of an obsession, and when she is fired from her job dancing (for being too thin) he secretly wins it back for her at no small personal cost.
Dark clouds are gathering over Chile. There are many socialist protests, and Nancy is drawn into a left wing group by a charismatic rival for her affections. The clouds erupt into a storm when the President is overthrown by General Pinochet, and suddenly Chile is plunged into chaos. These events are seen from Mario’s eyes, and he is resolutely apolitical. For Mario the rise of Pinochet’s dictatorship is felt when he is awoken in the night and finds Nancy’s house bombed and the object of his affections missing. When he goes to work there is a sudden and overwhelming rise in business at the morgue.
Post Mortem is a slow paced and deliberate film that has shades of Kafka in its presentation of Chilean civil service bureaucracy and the chilling way the new regime co-opts ordinary people into the official obfuscation of atrocities and violence. Castro is excellent in the lead role, sporting a quite extraordinary hairstyle. Although the actor plays his role as a grey pencil pusher perfectly, there are disquieting hints of an emptiness behind the Mario’s sad eyes. Zegers seems equally disconnected from the reality around her, falling in with left wing agitators for no real reason except that she seems to gravitate towards any man who is attracted to her.
Composed of long takes and shot in a very extreme scope ratio, Larraín’s film is beautifully made. The director made the highly regarded Tony Manero (also starring Castro) and is a South American director to watch. Despite being a relatively young director he is clearly drawn to the Pinochet era which was also key to his previous film.
Post Mortem is a very cold film, suffused with an atmosphere of gloom from the outset. This is fitting for a film in which so many scenes take place in an autopsy room, but it will not be to the tastes of a general audience. The final minutes of the film are quite horrifying, and likely to haunt the viewer for days afterwords.
Seek this film out if you are a fan of the films of Michael Heneke, it has a similar approach to atmosphere, although Larraín is far less obscure in his themes.
Rating: 4 stars