Post Mortem and the Banality of Evil

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Set amid the chaotic events of the U.S.-backed 1973 military overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende, Pablo Larraín’s chilling love story Post Mortem does more with less. It centers on Mario (Alfredo Castro, whose salt and pepper hairstyle makes him look like Anton Chigurh’s older brother), an eccentric morgue assistant with a quiet but creepy obsession with his exotic dancer neighbor, Nancy (Antonia Zegers). Both are oblivious to the political turmoil that surrounds them until Nancy’s home, a haven for pro-Allende supporters, is targeted by anti-government rebels. What is so fascinating about this exploration of Chile’s painful history is that Larraín deliberately keeps the camera focused on everything but the action; in one particularly brutal sequence Mario takes a long shower, while off-screen we hear the tumultuous birth of a revolution. It’s a deliberately frustrating, confrontational technique that’s ultimately rewarding in the way it enhances other aspects of the movie, like the incredibly rich sound design and the microscopic attention paid to Castro and Zeger’s complex performances. Post Mortem’s horrific depiction of the banality of evil reaches its apex with a pile of broken-down furniture that serves as the climactic expression of one man’s impotent rage; in this brutish, sad, and darkly funny film, the road to hell is paved with more than just good intentions.

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