The Corpse Of Anna Fritz

***

Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall

The Corpse Of Anna Fritz
"Though Vicens stumbles in the execution towards the bloody finale, he at least keeps the tension strumming."

The BFI London Film Festival is bookended by films of a certain ‘worthiness’, you might say. At one end is Sarah Gavron’s women’s rights biopic Suffragette, at the other Danny Boyle’s tech genius deconstruction Steve Jobs. But in between are plenty of darker delights, many of which find their home in either the LFF Cult or Dare strands. One such film is Spanish director Hèctor Hernández Vicens' "night at the morgue" thriller The Corpse of Anna Fritz. By subject matter alone it easily earns its place in the Cult strand; this film is about necrophilia, straight up. Nasty and queasy is the game plan, celebrity culture, misogyny and male violence are under the spotlight, and though Vicens stumbles in the execution towards the bloody finale, he at least keeps the tension strumming.

Set in modern-day Spain, the story begins with the untimely death of beautiful young actress and celebrity-of-the-moment Anna Fritz. Seemingly the Kristen Stewart of this fictional film world, her corpse's presence in a city-centre morgue where withdrawn young orderly Pau works soon attracts the attention of his hormone-addled friends Ivan and Javi. Ivan is a swaggering bully boy, clearly the leader, Javi the moral one (relatively speaking) clearly used to being led along by the alpha male. Despite his protestations, a few swigs of whiskey and a few coke snorts later, and Pau is gamely leading up the mortuary so they can leer over Anna’s corpse as it lies onto gurney awaiting autopsy.

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As the three wannabes gawp at the disrobed corpse, and the whiskey bottle and coke packets grow emptier, so the language turns, with queasy inevitability, to taboo-busting justified in the ugly language of rape culture (“just imagine she’s drunk”). You know what is coming, and Vicens does not spare his audience. This is the point where some audience members might shuffle out of the cinema. For those who remain; a second act revelation shifts the dynamic, and suddenly the crudely-sketched male violators (quite predictably they are revealed as the archetypes of a late-blooming altruistic ‘hero’, a compromised weakling follower, and the aggressive pack leader) are stuck in the classic pressure cooker scenario where the urge to escape the consequences of their depraved acts (and shift the blame) starts driving wedges between them.

Virtually all the action takes place in the two-room morgue, which becomes an appropriately cold, clinical prison for these as-yet-undiscovered criminals. For a brief moment it looks like the film might truly go down the ambitious route of exploring the legal ramifications of the actions taken by the three based on the knowledge they had at the time (something beyond the knowledge of this writer to even guess at). But Vicens doesn’t go there, instead setting his increasingly desperate male antagonists against each other, trying to keep us guessing as to who will crack and what will go wrong, until things fall into a more conventional path in a predictable blood-soaked revenge finale. Buying into the second and third acts also means accepting a quite substantial set of plot contrivances. An uneven effort, but certainly memorable in its starkness, simplicity and explicitness, and with a running time short enough to ensure there is little risk of the tension ebbing.

Reviewed on: 08 Oct 2015
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The Corpse Of Anna Fritz packshot
Three young men get up to no good in a hospital morgue.

Director: Hèctor Hernández Vicens

Writer: Isaac P Creus, Hèctor Hernández Vicens

Starring: Albert Carbó, Alba Ribas, Bernat Saumell, Cristian Valencia

Year: 2015

Runtime: 76 minutes

Country: Spain

Festivals:

London 2015

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