White Walls, Bloody Knives, and Self-Voyeurism: Aftermath (1994)

There exists a realm of cinema particularly for the disturbing and morbid.  Sometimes this is executed brilliantly, as in Audition, while in other cases it is simply glossy big budget gore with no purposes like in The Human Centipede. Nacho Cerda's short film Aftermath is something in between.  It is disturbing and bizarre, yet in it's drawn out cinematography and lack of dialogue the film manages to be something grotesquely beautiful.  It exists as a social commentary set amidst a horror film and the beauty is that the viewer is only made aware of this in the closing scenes.  It tempts its viewers to stop watching, only to remind them that in even the most degrading visual culture exists in a society that actually subjects living humans on a daily basis.

The film is short, but packs a punch.  It follows two pathologists partaking in what appear to be normal autopsies.  However, it is quickly made clear that they are not performing their jobs with any regards to ethics or respect for the corpses.  The two men destroy the corpses, mangle organs and remove organs for their own edification.  It seems as though this will constitute the entire film, until one of the pathologists is shown carrying the corpse of a woman into the autopsy room.   What follows is a series of profane acts between the man and the woman's corpse, which end with an act of necrophilia.  As if to add finality to the act, the pathologist takes the woman's heart home and feeds it to his dog.

From the onset I found the film problematic, it involves acts of dominance that theoretically constitute rape.  However, it is apparent as an entire piece that it serves as a metaphor.  The pathologists being patriarchy, capitalists or whatever power structure one finds themselves a victim.  With their phallic knives, possession of crucifix and unquestioned control over inanimate bodies they are a force which literally cannot be challenged.  What separates this film from others of the nature is the element of voyeurism throughout.  In one rather notable scene, the pathologist photographs his act of necrophilia, allowing himself to not only subjugate the dead woman, but to later revisit the pictures and reaffirm his actions, an interesting premise in a society that provides visual, literary and audio reaffirmation of corrupt acts by those in power.

The film is an interesting endeavor.  I cannot outright recommend this movie though, but those who enjoy the grotesque films will find this one refreshing in the midst of some rather terrible movies with similar plots.

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