Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Dellamorte Dellamore (Cemetery Man) - review

1994 (Italy / France / Germany)

Contains spoilers.

Dellamorte / Death, Dellamore / Love is a European art house film about the philosophical struggle with life , death and love and it's also an absurd, dark b-movie comedy. Yes, it's a bizarre one and I really don't know how to go about the review...

Francesco Dellamorte sublimely played by a very young looking Rupert Everett is the cemetery man, which incidentally became the title of the film for the US audience. By day he manages the burial of the townsfolk of the Italian town of Buffalora with his mute and challenged companion Gnaghi played by François Hadji-Lazaro and by night he deals with the fact that around seven days after burial some of them come back to life and quite often into his onsite house looking for food of the flesh kind. Conscious that should he make a fuss of these so called returners he might lose his job, he dispatches them with a bullet to the head in a very matter of fact way and gets Gnaghi to rebury them without alerting anyone.

Francesco soon finds himself obsessed over a young widow played by the alluring Annie Falchi after burying her late and much older husband. Drawn to each other, Francesco and his obsession, surrounded by death soon fall in love and whilst consummating their bond things take a turn for the worse when her late husband rises and takes some vengeance (or perhaps was just a little peckish and she was closest.)

With her returning from the dead days later and talk of eternal love I felt comfortable thinking I knew the direction the narrative was going. I was wrong. Director Michele Soavi didn't create a closed narrative and all notions of such were soon expelled. It becomes apparent that Dellamorte Dellamore is really an increasingly surreal and absurd sequence of semi-connected events surrounding the same characters, with an over arching but ambiguous narrative of ennui, death and love.

 Annie Falchi returns over and over in different roles but with the same inexplicable and timeless feelings of love for Francesco, and his attempts at recreating what they lost always go disastrously awry. Add some homicidal apathy and increasing attempts at pushing what he can get away with to the mix, an odd sequence with his only friend who'd been covering for him, who is now in a coma in hospital, and an enigmatic, dreamlike farcical ending, and one can see the film is fully divorced from being a traditional narrative story.

Dellamorte Dellamore also never takes itself too seriously and there are some truly memorable absurd twisted, surreal and sickening scenes. Flying gnashing zombie heads, motor bikers emerging from the ground and a hilarious sequence with a bus full of scouts all add a b-movie ambience to the film. Dellamorte Dellamore is cult classic and some of these sequences could possibly be seen as a little much and a little out of place in a movie that in part was trying desperately to struggle with Francesco's apathy at the world and death, and his ability to deal with fleeting moments of love which disturbed it. In many ways it could be argued that this absurdity actually mirrors Francesco increasing mental deterioration;  It's all in his mind anyway?

The Blu-Ray reviewed was the Italian release with Italian and English stereo soundtracks. I've read that both this dub and the picture quality are better than the Blu-Ray German release and it also has the non-cropped correct anamorphic 1:66 to 1 ratio. All the extras were in Italian without subtitles unfortunately and weren't reviewed.

Dellamorte Dellamore can't really be pigeon-holed. It's not a heavy horror film nor a traditional survival story. What we have is a surreal dark-humoured European horror film that deals with the duality of the splendour and grandeur of love and the weight of ennui from the absurdity of existing in a world where death is such an inevitability. Daft and captivating, 8/10.


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