Spanish director Manuel Martín Cuenca’s take on the cinematic cannibal character is a fresh one. Based on the novel by Humberto Arenal, it’s an odd tale about a skilled tailor in the small town of Granada who leads a very secret private lifestyle.
Empty wilderness, travellers late at night on the road beware. The landscapes of the surrounding countryside, shores and mountains have never been more beautiful than how they are shown in the cinematography here. In a region that would be quite popular for lengthy road trips and short breaks or pilgrimages, there’s a sinister underside. A solitary and strange man with a lack of emotional facial expressions, who seems entirely content where he is, practises something unexpected in his spare time.
The landscapes of the surrounding countryside, shores and mountains have never been more beautiful than how they are shown in the cinematography here.
Dramatically and brutally running cars off the road, or hunting down skinny-dipping lovers on the shore at night. Carlos is as evil as they come. The film wastes no time at all introducing us to his chosen past-time, the disgusting dismemberment of stolen human bodies. He’s a sharp dresser and methodological in his approach, just as skilled in carving up bodies for eating as he is at hand crafting finely tailored men’s suits. Like famous onscreen cannibal Hannibal Lecter of Silence of the Lambs (1991), Carlos is specifically normal and in every way the stand up gentleman as his appearance might conceive. As with all great film performances of characters with darker secrets, there’s an invested creepiness to how he goes about his business of murder and consuming the human flesh. The mentality of any cannibal to come before him is indeed similarly precise as the character actor Antonio de la Torre proposes.
The most entertaining part of the stereotypical cannibal narrative is the inclusion of the audience in the secret and deadly lifestyle the cannibal leads. Here it’s given right from the start and the audience is set up for nail biting moments of human interaction that follow. There’s no humanity in what he does, his whole personality is just face for the society he lives in and so he’s markedly skin crawling and undesirable. Grimly fascinating, he eats with the same calm expression and precision he does everything in his daily routine with.
Digressing from the initially bloody terror of the opening sequence of the film, the narrative becomes more about social psychology than going down the lines of thriller based genre stereotype.
There’s typically a spanner in the works and here it’s presented in Alexandra, a masseuse that moves in upstairs and takes a liking to him. After a fight late at night Carlos offers to take her to the police and when her sister Nina moves in looking for the thusly vanished Alexandra. Digressing from the initially bloody terror of the opening sequence of the film, the narrative becomes more about social psychology than going down the lines of thriller based genre stereotype.
One incredibly lucid and highly effective concept is the lack of non-diagetic sound. There’s no soundtrack for most of the film. There’s no music to emotionally spur on the audience to react to certain actions in certain ways. Doing this without feeling amateurish or taking itself too seriously as a narrative is key to its success as an entertaining piece of work.
[notification type=”star”]60/100 ~ OKAY. Spanish director Manuel Martín Cuenca’s take on the cinematic cannibal character is a fresh one.[/notification]