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Wednesday, November 25, 2015


As a student of Literature, I had a tough time dissecting Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”; the subtext was very difficult for me to fathom. But imagine my surprise when Turkish director Tolga Karacelik based his second feature Ivy on this very poem. Not only did it seem a daunting task, it was a mighty zealous one too. Ivy has the modern day setting of the “Ancient Mariner”, as it reveal the gradual psychosis faced by the sailors from boredom, deprivation and internal conflicts, on board the Turkish vessel as it lies stranded, off the coast of Egypt.

Ivy can be considered as a slow paced psychological thriller, with subsequent supernatural occurrences towards the end. Captain Beybaba takes in a few replacements at one port, in the hope to continue with his voyage to Egypt smoothly. The voyage is an important one for all the crew onboard since none of them have been paid for months.  But both the captain and the crew get a rude shock when they learn that the ship owner has declared himself bankrupt and is now absconding.  During such a circumstance if the ship anchors at the port, everything will be impounded. The only way out of such a clutch and ensure that they get paid their dues is that a minimum of six able sailors should stay on board the ship, for an indefinite period, until the legal morass is untangled.

The six who are left behind is an odd amalgamation. Apart from the captain who chooses to keep himself distant from the rest of the crew, there is the cook Nadir, Ismail, a religious family man, who abhors discourtesy and laziness, two dope smoking newcomers – Cenk and Alpher and finally a giant of a man – Kurd, a character of few words. The first few days pass away in easeful languor, but tempers soon begin to flare up in the face of the dwindling provisions and the vast emptiness of the ocean that the group has to face every minute of their day. The subconscious is numbed as the sailors perform their torpidly repetitive jobs; it further agitates them, and frequent fights break out between the group. While Alpher is quite harmless and usually follows Cenk’s lead, Cenk is the lax indolent provocateur, who is hankering for the keys to medicine cabinet, after his dope runs out. But things take a toll for the worse, when one from the group disappears and there are subsequent sightings of him, which is an eerie comparison to the ghost of the albatross.

What is unrevealed in the later segment is the fragmenting power dynamics of the ship. There is a sense of claustrophobia all around, as the sailors can see the shore but are unable to reach it. The shoreline feels near yet is far away and remains static. Time seems at a deadlock, thus reminding the audience every time of the ordeal of the sailors - “Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” As the film navigates to its end, we sense a feeling of almost Kafaesque dread, fuelled with the paranoia encountered by the sailors. Ivy with all its efforts, moves sluggishly, but musters enough atmospheric charisma to generate as much as tension and abstruseness it can.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Corpse of Anna Fritz

The Corpse of Anna Fritz is not subtle, not even in its name. You know that a corpse is involved; it is the corpse of Anna Fritz. Anna Fritz is dead, the darling of the paparazzi and her fans, a renowned actress who has worked with all the celebrated names of Hollywood.  But right now her body is held in an unnamed hospital, being wheeled around to the morgue for an autopsy to be performed.  With the setting as a morgue, director Hector Hernandez Vicens begins his delightfully dark, provocative thriller, which at the same time is flavoured with a perverse dose of necrophilia.

Vicens has shown an abashed amount of audacity to portray the taboo that is necrophilia; this is the road that is very less travelled.  What begins as a bit of a celebrity obsession turns into a nightmare for Pau (Albert Carb√≥), Ivan (Cristian Valencia) and Javi (Bernat Saumell). As an orderly at the hospital where the body of Anna Fritz is being held, Pau can’t help show off to his two friends the dead face of the most famous woman in Spain as he takes a picture on his phone and sends it to them. Ivan and Javi drop in, on their way to a party. Sure, doing lines and sneaking in a drink or two is fun, but what can be better than to stare down at the naked body of the most desirable woman? Pau sneaks in his friends down to the morgue to do exactly that. A little uneasy at first, with all the dead bodies around them, Ivan and Javi are nervy and jittery; the fact that they have been doing lines does not help either. Pau removes the white sheet that covers the corpse of Anna Fritz and the trio gaze down at the nude figure of Anna, and the scene finally transitions to one of the most macabre sex acts known to mankind.

But this is not where you draw in your breath and stop breathing. That moment arrives when we see Pau thrusting away with full vigour at the presumably lifeless corpse of Anna, and she opens her eyes. Now, I urge you to tap into your willing suspension of disbelief and go with the flow of movie, instead of delving into the absurdity of her ludicrous resurrection. Having been caught at the act, the sickening and repulsive deed of necrophilia is now transpired into a full blown case of rape. The movie reaches its climax when the friends are faced with a criminal choice, whether to save the girl, who will identify them as necrophilia practicing rapists or silence her forever, since she is already dead to the world.

The horror in the movie spills over to showcase the primal instinct of protection for man. Having been faced with the prospect of rape charges, the friends discuss if they can go to the grave depth of ending a life, just to silence Anna for their earlier transgressions. Our society is celebutante obsessed, so much so that it transmutes into a provoking decision to violate a young woman’s lifeless body and the cold, helpless stare of Anna immediately catches the audience. Vicens pays a brilliant homage to Uma “The Bride” Thurman from Kill Bill as we witness Anna’s desperation to escape her predicament, without most of her motor functions.

There is a sinful nature to Vicen’s story, but it is never titillating; the visuals continue to be outside of the characters' warped and salacious perspective. There is no grotesque exploitation of the necrophilia, but at the same time, The Corpse of Anna Fritz maintains momentum of a thriller admirably.