Thanatomorphose is a French word translating to the visible changes to the body caused by death. Basically, the decomposition of flesh. Éric Falardeau’s feature film debut of the same name is the brutal, bloody, claustrophobic, and relentless portrayal of a young woman’s literal and visceral decomposition. While the acting and pacing leaves much to be desired, the practical effects are stunning and the concept crippling. This is a gem for those with strong stomachs and a desire to read a challenging film. This is not for the squeamish. I cannot stress that point enough.
The film follows a young, struggling sculptor (Kayden Rose) in a dead-end relationship with a brutish boar of a man. Working a nine to five to pay the bills, it’s made clear that she’s miserable with her life. After a night of rough sex with her bastard lover, she wakes up with a mysterious bruise on her arm. Then one appears on her chin. Soon, her entire body is covered. Thus begins her literal decomposition, shown in grim detail.
The dialogue is fairly leaden, and the performances generally juvenile. Davyd Tousignant gives an aggravatingly affected performance. Kayden Rose is stilted in her delivery, which could be attributed to the poorly written dialogue. However, she effectively emotes through her facial expressions and body language. Furthermore, considering Rose spends nearly the entire film not only nude, but covered in all manner of filth, props must be given.
The film moves at a glacial pace. While her steady decomposition is most impactful over a long period of time, an hour and forty minutes is too much. The practical effects are magnificent for such a low budget film. What David Scherer and Rémy Couture have accomplished is truly remarkable.
What’s most poignant about this film – which is significant in spite of my criticisms – is its message. It serves as a metaphor for the loss of self in the struggle for self-discovery. Finding gainful employment and a meaningful career for this generation of twenty- and thirty-somethings is harder now than it’s ever been. Passions, such as Rose’s sculpture, must be put aside to slog through soul crushing jobs just to make ends meat. Finding a genuine human connection in this age of digital self-actualization is becoming increasingly difficult, and we find ourselves settling for as little as a hot fuck. We start to connect and live in superficial ways. We let ourselves die from the inside out. We rot.
While no twenty- or thirty-somethings are literally decomposing because of the current state of affairs, the metaphor rings true. Painfully so. This isn’t just a simple gore fest. It’s potent, visceral, and ruthless. It’s a peculiar film to relate to, but that will hopefully serve as a testament to Falardeau’s conceptual prowess, and not just a happy accident. His dialogue needs to improve, as does his editing. However, Thanatomorphose will memorably and controversially put Falardeau on the map.