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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 07.24.14] Spain thriller

It was obvious from the trailer for Manuel Martín Cuenca's award winning Cannibal that this was not going to be the story of a raging, murderous, crazy man who goes around killing and then eating people. There was a restraint and beauty to the trailer which suggested a different kind of cannibal story and Cuenca's movie is exactly that: a quiet contemplation of a man with a dark secret.

Antonio de la Torre (most recently seen in Pedro Almodóvar audacious I'm So Excited), makes a complete left turn here and provides a commanding performance as Carlos, a handsome, well respected and admired tailor who makes his living dressing some of the most important men of Granada. By day he's a solitary man but he spends a few hours a week with Aurora, an older woman who may or may not be his step-mother, and the rest of his time working on relaxing in his mountain retreat but by night, he kills. Typically women but when necessary, a couple though he only eats the female flesh.

Like Jim Mickle's We Are What We Are (review), Cannibal isn't concerned with shocking the audience but far more interested in exploring Carlos' way of life. What isn't clear is why he does what he does. Cuenca provides no explanation or even motivation or back story for why Carlos is as he is. Even when Carlos opens up about his past, there's no indication that he's going to change his ways; only the feeling that the lonely man no longer wants to spend his days alone. There's probably some psychological reading into the fact that Carlos shares his history with the one woman he can't kill and whom he says he loves but it's all quite vague. He's simply evil (though even this comes into question in the film's closing scene).

Carlos isn't a likable character. He's creepy and mysterious and though it's difficult to center a story on a character that is so completely unsympathetic, Cannibal is completely successful and engaging from beginning to end. The movie's opening scene sets up a tone of terror that runs throughout the movie though the actual violence on display is scarce. Part of success is the simplicity of the production which is beautifully minimalistic and only uses didactic sound. It's a bold choice but a successful one in creating a feeling of calmness though there is always the nagging feeling that something was bout to happen and for that reason, I found myself leaning forward, anticipating Carlos' next attack.

Cuenca's movie is very precise and controlled and astoundingly beautiful. Pau Esteve Birba's cinematography has received much praise and for good reason. He captures Cannibal with a simple beauty and stillness that reflects Carlos' way of life and between it and the movie's editing, Cannibal feels like quietly mounting pile of explosives that can go off at any moment.

It's purposeful and quiet but Cannibal is never boring. It may lack action sequences but it more than delivers on mood and a never ending dread that permeates throughout. Mix in a few extraordinary flashes of violence and you have yourself a fantastic bit or arthouse terror that is well worth a look.

Cannibal opens in select cities and is available on VOD on Friday, July 25.

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spektre (8 years ago) Reply

This movie me and my g/f are waiting ever so long to watch... hopefully soon we may have a chance, especially reading this extraordinary review.


spektre (8 years ago) Reply

Well, we just saw it, a beautiful movie actually. worth a watch. really worth a watch, it is quite moving. And while we agree with the review mostly, the reason of his cannibalism is expressed and heavily alluded to. Which makes all the more brilliant.

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