Dir: Alireza Khatami | Doc | Iran | 89′
Alireza Khatami’s intriguingly elusive debut feature draws you into its kafkaesque scenario where poetic realism coalesces with cinema verite elements and docu-drama to tell a tale set in a rural mortuary in the distant aftermath of murderous regimes, although the South American country of its setting isn’t named.
Juan Margallo plays the establishment’s wizened 24-hour caretaker and he seems to know a great deal more about his defunct and unclaimed residents than we initially imagine. He looks on laconically as one man arrives and weeps pitifully over a recent corpse in the morgue’s vast basement. We also meet a gravedigger (Tomas del Estal) and hearse driver (Maunel Moron) who perform their tasks with quiet resignation when some putative assassins turn up with bodies from a recent debacle in the local town.
The narrative remains evasive in this mood piece, but there is a great deal to admire in DoP Antoine Heberle’s fizzingly vibrant images that capture the daily doings in the morgue and the fascinating characters that inhabit it and flesh out the backstories of their lives and how they met their grim fates. Haunting and arcane, this is a film that seduces you with its macabre charm and leaves you speculating and scheming for hours after the credits have rolled. MT
VENICE FILM FESTIVAL 2017 | 30 AUGUST – 9 SEPTEMBER 2017