THE BODY [2012]: on DVD and Blu-Ray 9th September


Directed by:
Written by: ,
Starring: , , ,

THE BODY AKA EL CUERPO [Spain 2012]

AVAILABLE ON DVD AND BLU-RAY: 9th September

RUNNING TIME: 104 min

REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic

 

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A security guard at a morgue sees something which terrifies him and runs in terror through the woods outside and onto a road, where he is accidently run over. Detective Jaime Peta, who is still haunted by the accidental death of his wife in a car crash ten years ago, arrives at the morgue and finds that a most bizarre thing has happened. A body has disappeared. The body was that of Makya Villaverde, and her husband Alex is soon informed. As the police investigation as to how the body disappeared progresses, Alex becomes more and more nervous, not just because his wife may be alive, but because he was the one who killed her…..

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It’s a good time for Spanish cinema of late, especially of the suspense thriller and horror movie types. Oriol Paulo is one of many talented up-and-coming Spanish filmmakers who has been given a chance to shine with his first feature film, and some may find it surprising that Guillermo Del Toro had nothing to do with it. Paulo is best known for co-writing Julia’s Eyes but he also directed a TV movie chiller called Ecos which from the sound of it seems pretty good, though it sadly doesn’t appear to be available to view anywhere. The Body shows that Paulo has a great future ahead of him as a filmmaker and a good one as a writer too, though it’s not a totally satisfying picture truth be told. It’s one of those films that is good, but constantly seems on the verge of getting even better and doesn’t quite make it. This twisty, increasingly psychological thriller does entertain though as long as you’re willing to be patient and concentrate on a complex story gradually unravelling, even if it’s rarely as tense and exciting as it should be.

We open in very conventional fashion of a man running in terror through some woods, only to be hit by a car when he runs into a road. Then the police turn up at the morgue and find that a body has disappeared. Now I will say right now that this film makes superb use of its primary setting, even more so than the two versions of Nightwatch [why aren’t more films set in morgues, they really are disturbing and scary places]. They cleverly built the main morgue set with lots of windows so you can almost always see other rooms and the characters really do seem like they are trapped in a maze. The whole design element of The Body has been really well thought through and some things work even when they perhaps shouldn’t, like the prominent use of a sickly yellow in many scenes. Cinematographer Oscar Faure is one of the heroes of this film with his excellent work, which, [as with his lensing of The Orphanage] is stylish without taking you out of the film. He sometimes resorts to old film noir techniques like lighting a character’s face in half shadow in a film which has a pleasing old-fashioned feel throughout. There’s a moment early on where the plot starts to thicken, the shadows become more prominent, the music gets more intense and the thunder starts rumbling outside ; it’s melodramatic in the best way without quite spilling over into corniness.

Anyway, back to the plot, and to be honest I can’t divulge too much, because to most enjoy this film you need to go into it not knowing much of what will happen. Quite quickly though, watching The Body is a bit like watching Les Diaboliques or one of its many imitations a third of the way through, after the murder has been committed. We soon learn that Alex killed his wife and for a while this doesn’t entirely work for this particular story, because, unlike with Simone Signoret and Véra Clouzot, where we have been on their side right from the beginning way before they decide to kill the horrible man who tormented them, we are not really on Alex’s side at all when we are told he killed his wife  and it appears that she may have returned from the grave. We don’t care very much for this guy, and it’s all a bit more like watching an episode of Columbo, where the entertainment is of a certainly absorbing but more mechanical kind as we watch the procedure by which a killer is caught. Despite this, there is some good build-up of suspense in some of the morgue scenes and it looks like The Body is working up to becoming really chilling.

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Unfortunately, it doesn’t really get there. Rather than try to thrill and scare his audience, Paulo instead spends most of his time wrong-footing the viewer as he slowly reveals more and more details of his tale in a very roundabout way. He constantly employs flashbacks which drift in and out of the film in an almost dreamlike manner, to the point where, despite the lighting often changing, usually becoming much brighter, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether you’re in the present or in the past. The misdirection is cunning and I will now reveal that there is a final twist. It’s well achieved, because just before it, you seem to get another twist which has been used too often before you’re then hit with this other one, one which ties up some loose ends and at least one element of the film which previously seemed a little pointless. However, it’s also one of those twists that seems increasingly implausible as you think about it. It also seems like, as with this year’s Now You See Him, the script was written by the writer thinking about the twist before anything else and then working backwards. There’s no real exciting climax or even build-up, just a revelation, and it’s possible to feel a bit cheated by the promise of excitement in the early scenes even while one can admire Paulo and his co-writer Lara Sendim for refusing to stoop to what some might call cheap thrills. I think though that The Body could have done with some.

With the exception of some Fatal Attraction-style usage of a lift and a gory car accident which cleverly used a car on a skateboard rather than the usual stunt driving to get the impression of force as said car smashes into another, The Body could almost be a ‘PG’ rated movie. It succeeded best for me in the dialogue scenes between haunted, world-weary but methodical detective Pena and the duplicitous Alex, scenes which sometimes evoke Roman Polanski and Gerald Depardieu’s psychological battles in the excellent A Pure Formality. The dialogue is sharp and the acting is detailed especially by Jose Coranodo, who subtly suggests to the viewer that his character may know more than he is suggesting to Alex. All the main characters are not as they seem and the cast all rise to the challenge admirably. Belen Rueda does an especially fine job because her scenes tend to be very short and fragmented. Her character is like a supernatural spirit who floats in and out of the film, sometimes dead, sometimes very much alive, but always somewhat off-kilter. Sergio Maure’s score is decent but never totally rises to the occasion.

I guess the main reason I found The Body a bit unsatisfactory is because it’s one of those films which could go down a number of different routes after the early scenes and chooses to go down one of the least interesting ones to me, but some may feel different. It’s technically excellent and is very well acted and directed, but feels a little cold and methodical, much like many Agatha Christie stories. It remains admirably intelligent and restrained, and I feel it may benefit from more than one viewing. I recommend you check it out though, as in a tiny way it may contribute to helping Paulo make another film where his obvious talent can flourish.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

 

SPECIAL FEATURES

* Making of

* Behind the scenes

* Trailer

* Alternative Trailer

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About Dr Lenera 1979 Articles
I'm a huge film fan and will watch pretty much any type of film, from Martial Arts to Westerns, from Romances [though I don't really like Romcoms!]] to Historical Epics. Though I most certainly 'have a life', I tend to go to the cinema twice a week! However,ever since I was a kid, sneaking downstairs when my parents had gone to bed to watch old Universal and Hammer horror movies, I've always been especially fascinated by horror, and though I enjoy all types of horror films, those Golden Oldies with people like Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee probably remain my favourites. That's not to say I don't enjoy a bit of blood and gore every now and again though, and am also a huge fan of Italian horror, I just love the style.

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