Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Post Mortem

Mario (Alfredo Castro) the central figure of the Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s Post Mortem currently  playing at Film Forum immediately recalls the character of Marcello (Jean-Louis Trintigant) in Bertolucci’s The Conformist. Both characters are emotionally absent and plainly traumatized by their pasts, remaining sleepwalkers within the fascist onslaughts that both films describe. In The Conformist, the reason is explicit. In Post Mortem, Mario’s personality is not explained, but he like Marcello is capable of small moral gestures within the ambiguous universe he occupies. He works as a functionary in a morgue and refuses to have sex with a co-worker who is sleeping with someone else; in the course of pulling a hand wagon full of murdered leftist demonstrators, he hears a groan and rescues a survivor. The narrative hinges around Mario’s love for his neighbor, a cabaret dancer named Nancy (Antonia Zegers), but their one lovemaking scene is curiously disembodied. You see only her face while hearing his moans in the background. It’s like the corpses in the morgue which seem to pile up out of nowhere. The film is firmly anchored in history. An autopsy is even performed on Allende at one point; on the other hand the net effect of historical circumstance is constantly muted by the direction which presents everything from a microcosmic rather than macrocosmic point of view. The  obvious is turned into allegory, in a way obfuscates rather then throwing any fresh light on September ll, l973, the day that Pinochet’s military overthrew the first democratically elected Marxist government in Latin American history. 

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