By Jerome Reuter
Thanatomorphose is a film thats received many mixed reviews. Some critics have praised it for its effects, others have accused it of having no substance whatsoever. So what’s my take on it? I feel it’s a film thats visceral, rich with atmosphere, and absolutely beautiful beneath the surface. Although some might not agree, I also see it as a brilliant homage to Jorg Buttgereit’s Nekromantik. Without a doubt, it’s one of the best post-modern horror films to emerge in quite some time.
The film is the story of a young artist, and her complete degeneration. The entirety of the story takes place within the confines of her house. Once again, a brilliant use of keeping the terror in a confined setting. Aside from that, it’s what were not told about her. We know she’s a struggling artist, and is in a somewhat loveless relationship. The focus isn’t on the character, but the events that take place around her.
Although I want this review to be as spoiler free as possible, I do have to point a few things out. Our artist suffers from a mysterious illness, that rapidly progresses as the film continues. A disease that gradually rots her flesh, and infests her with maggot larvae. Upon the surface, this might seem like a cheap gross out ploy.However, I feel there’s more to it than just that. The disease doesn’t really begin to take full effect, until she begins to lose hope in her work. The disease isn’t just an integral plot point, it also establishes her character arc. She begins to grow violent, and even tries to use her decayed extremities as a new art form. This mirrors the film were watching. It’s an exploration of horror as an art form, and not just entertainment.
The visceral imagery of these sequences, really help build the atmosphere. They also establish strong feelings of hopelessness, futility, and isolation. As I’ve mentioned several times before, effective film storytelling is ‘feel it first, think about it second.’ The stark imagery help deliver these themes, in a very powerful way. Amidst all of the grotesqueness, there’s a kind of perverse beauty.
A lot of this can be credited to the films atmosphere. Aside from utilizing only one location, there is minimal dialogue, and very little music. For the most part, the only music you hear is a somber violin, playing a requiem. This incites us to feel pathos for out protagonist, and remind us that we’re watching a tragedy. Combined this with its shots of stationary camerawork, really make it rise above the tide of cheap imitations. There’s a deep psychology at work here, one you’ll rarely find in this day and age.
Nekromantik was a work for the counter culture, by the counter culture. Thanatomorphose is a modern day work of art, and deserves every bit of praise it gets.