Friday, September 25, 2015

'The Corpse of Anna Fritz' (2015) directed by Hèctor Hernández Vicens (London Film Festival 2015)


I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during the pitch for The Corpse of Anna Fritz. A world-famous young starlet unexpectedly dies. Her body is held in a hospital morgue where an orderly snaps a photo of her and sends it to his friends. They turn up eager for a peek, ogling her naked body and squeezing her breasts. Then one of them suggests having sex with the corpse, pointing out that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Sure she's growing a bit pungent, but after all, Anna Fritz is a celebrity...

It's probably safe to say that The Corpse of Anna Fritz isn't destined for mainstream success. This marks another entry in the mercifully limited necrophilia subgenre, alongside esteemed classics like the shiver-inducing NEKromantik series and the major league barminess of 1973's Love Me Deadly. These films set out to shock (and they succeed), yet simply freaking an audience out is like shooting fish in a barrel. So it's refreshing that Vicens uses necrophilia as a springboard for political and social comment.

The three men at the centre of the story - a hospital orderly and his two friends - are various degrees of moronically macho, yet instantly recognisable. Early in the film they cockily evaluate women in the hospital waiting room for 'fuckability', boasting that they could persuade a Chinese student to get breast implants and pimp her out. They're detestable creatives, yet their behaviour and dialogue is instantly recognisable: "Whey, mad bantz!"

This proves to be the tip of an iceberg of misogyny that this film explores and subtly satirises. From the garbled crackle of scene-setting news radio over the opening credits we learn of Fritz's life. World-famous movie star, international jet-setter, fashion icon and model - she sits atop the Mount Olympus of celebrity. Ordinarily, to men like our leads, she's practically divine, existing only as a fantasy. Even before the events of the film begin men (and men like them) have reduced Anna Fritz to a dislocated, impersonal sex object, something entirely separate to her as human being.


This makes their arousal when confronted with her newly-dead corpse weirdly understandable. Like Pavlov's dogs they've been socially conditioned to lust after beautiful, passive and submissive women, making Fritz's corpse utterly irresistible: a three-dimensional, tactile masturbatory aid. Ironically, even while dead she feels more 'alive' than the porn that's warped their minds. That their lust is vaguely comprehensible layers the film with pitch-black satire: Vicens concluding that unashamedly raping corpses is the logical endpoint of 21st century masculinity.

This is neat stuff and for a decent portion of the film Vicens is onto a winner, weaving together sociology and nausea-inducing horror into an uncomfortable yet satisfying watch. Yet, sadly, the film eventually degenerates into a conventional Hitchcockian suspense thriller composed of largely predictable narrative beats. 

It's not that the film becomes bad, just that it turns into a decently constructed genre flick, which is a bit disappointing after the promise of the first act. Even so it looks great throughout, making much of the cool pallor of cold fluorescent light on skin and the textures of sterilised white tiles and grimily industrial hospital machinery. The performances are also top notch, with Christian Valencia's scumbag extraordinaire Ivan standing out as a particularly hateful asshole who deserves every inch of his comeuppance. Even Alba Ribas impresses as the titular corpse. Playing a dead body doesn't sound like the most promising of roles, yet she puts in an honest-to-god performance rather than just being a prop.

I can't deny enjoying The Corpse of Anna Fritz, though it didn't turn out to be the corpse sex film I'd hoped for. I love bold cinema that careens through taboos and explores seriously bizarre territory, especially when it's shot with as much panache as this is. Sadly it can't quite stick the landing, settling for genre competence rather than properly going off the deep end. Still, its mouldy, slowly rotting heart is in the right place.

★★★

The Corpse of Anna Fritz is at the London Film Festival on 7th and 8th October. Tickets here. 

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1 Responses to “'The Corpse of Anna Fritz' (2015) directed by Hèctor Hernández Vicens (London Film Festival 2015)”

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