Canada | 2012 | Directed by Eric Falardeau
Logline: A young woman, with two male suitors, falls prey to an appalling condition where her body begins to decompose, slowly and surely.
Body horror! Those French-Canadians are capable of some depraved stuff indeed and this low-budget independent (oh yes, very independent!) movie is an exercise in extremity, a study in decomposition, a portrait of loneliness, a very dark metaphorical reflection of social disease.
A young woman has an asshole for a boyfriend. A male friend isn’t much better, opportunist pigs. But this woman has a much more serious problem than any misogyny, although their contempt will bring about their comeuppance later in the movie. This woman wakes one morning with a couple of nasty bruises. And they weren’t caused by her lover’s rough bedroom technique.
Later in the shower she chips her entire fingernail off on the bar of soap. A clump of her hair comes out. And she’s got a rash on her inner thigh. Something is not right. Something is very, very wrong.
Thanatomorphose is a French word meaning the visible signs of the body’s decay through death. Why it’s happening to this young woman is never explained. But the reasoning isn’t really the issue for writer/director Falardeau, he’s far more concerned with the process, the minutiae of the rot, of the body, and the inexorable psychological damage such an horrific condition would do to its victim.
Mind you, this particular victim has hardened the fuck up. So much like Seth Brundle in David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986) she begins to collect her bits as they fall off. She takes Polaroids and, in the movie’s one instant of (black) humour she attempts to glue her fingernails back on.
Cronenberg, another Canadian, is very much an influence and inspiration for Falardeau. I’m sure he had watched The Fly and wondered what it would be like for an ordinary human being to go through what superhuman Brundlefly had experienced.
There is a tenebrous sexual nature to this study of corpulence. Her steadily dilapidating body twists the woman’s libido, pushing it outward, wrenching it from her body, and stealing it from her; the movie’s dim lighting and increasing use of close-ups only accentuating the dark tone.
Kayden Rose delivers a courageous performance, spending almost the entire movie completely naked (although in the movie’s latter stages the blackened rot engulfs her flesh). Her male support isn’t anything to write home about, and thankfully the stilted dialogue is kept to a minimum, but this is a movie driven by a visceral intensity, punctuated by moments of abstract distorted colour and sound, an industrialist surrealist edge.
In a deliberate contrast sleek work from the Guild of Funerary Violinists provides a perforated sadness that wraps the movie in a desolate shroud. Thanatomorphose is recommended to those with enjoy their art-horror buried deep in the macabre.
Thanatomorphose is screening as part of Fantastic Planet vs. A Night Of Horror International Film Festival, Dendy Cinema Newtown, Thursday, April 18th, 9pm.