Post Mortem (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner08/09/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 98 mins

Impressively directed and superbly written, this is a powerful, thought-provoking and ultimately disturbing drama with stunning production design work and another superb central performance from Tony Manero star Alfredo Castro.

What's it all about?
Co-written and directed by Pablo Larrain, Post Mortem reunites the director with Tony Manero star Alfred Castro. Set in 1973, during the coup that overthrew Allende, the film stars Castro as Santiago morgue worker Mario Cornejo, who documents autopsies performed by his boss Doctor Castillo (Jaime Vadell) along with his assistant Sandra (Amparo Noguera).

Outside of work, Mario's main concern is lusting after his burlesque neighbour Nancy (Antonia Zegers), who's just been sacked from the Bim Bam Bum club for being too thin. However, as the coup rages around them and the bodies begin to pile up at work, Mario begins to fear that Nancy's association with militant Victor (Marcelo Alonso) will see her ending up on the mortuary slab.

The Good
As with Tony Manero, Castro delivers an extraordinary, almost completely expressionless performance as Mario – there's a hint of Buster Keaton in his comically blank-looking face – to the point where, when he suddenly bursts into tears in sympathy with another crying character, it comes as something of a shock. His utterly deadpan performance allows for the film to be read a number of ways – is Mario already dead, for example, or is he just weird and withdrawn?

Larrain's direction is extremely impressive, keeping all the actual violence and murder offscreen (although we continually hear the sounds of gunshots and general chaos), so that the morgue's continually accumulating piles of bodies come to seem hellish or other-worldly. This is augmented by terrific washed-out 1970s production design work (lots of browns) and some highly atmospheric sound design, coupled with effectively grainy photography from Sergio Armstrong.

The Great
In addition, Larrain orchestrates some memorably powerful scenes (he's the master of the uncomfortably long take), not least a brilliantly chilling final sequence that it would be churlish to reveal here.

There are also several subtly disturbing touches, such as an out-of-nowhere fantasy sequence or characters from earlier in the film later appearing, unnoticed and unremarked upon, amongst the piles of bodies.

Worth seeing?
Beautifully made and superbly written, this is a powerful and unsettling drama with a terrific central performance from Alfredo Castro. It also seems inevitable that Castro and Larrain will work together again, so it will be fascinating to see what they come up with next. Recommended, particularly if you loved Tony Manero.

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Content updated: 24/10/2017 05:21

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