Directed by: Hèctor Hernández Vicens
Written by: Hèctor Hernández Vicens and Issac P. Creus
Starring: Alba Ribas, Bernat Saumell, Cristian Valencia, Albert Carbó
Ladies of Spain, here are some tips to avoid being raped by your fellow citizen. These tips, published in August 2014 and mostly paraphrased below, are brought to you by your Ministry of Interior, an apparent harbinger and bastion of female sensitivity and protection:
1) Close your curtains to avoid Peeping Toms (guys are pervs, ladies)
2) Don’t put your first name on your call or lock box (because that might mean a woman lives there)
3) Buy a whistle (the sound is Kryptonite to the unsuspecting rapist)
4) Avoid lonely bus stops at night (India knows about this)
5) Don’t walk along vacant sidewalks, alleys, or, more bizarrely, auto shops (Rape in between in oil changes?)
6) Avoid elevators with strangers (Strangers translating to men)
There are other suggestions, some of which you can find here, along with a link to the list: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/09/neoliberal-rape-spain-201491964245247408.html
Men of Spain, the Ministry didn’t exactly publish a comprehensive list for you, but in the perceived culture of victim blaming, its best probably best to be presumed innocent by avoiding women in elevators and running away at the sound of a whistle. Oh, and don’t rape people.
All flippancy aside, what does this have to do with the upcoming release of the very controversial Spanish film The Corpse of Anna Fritz? In context, perhaps everything. Whether the filmmakers meant to incorporate Spain’s rape problem - or the longstanding issue that violence against women is so ubiquitous in the world - doesn’t quite matter, for the film’s disturbing subject matter is an exercise in tolerance, upsetting the fine line between entertainment and art.
Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead.
The story revolves around the body of Anna Fritz, a recently deceased actress, celebrity, and darling of Spain, as well as 3 men – Pau, an employee at a hospital in charge of processing the cadavers at the hospital’s morgue; and Javi and Ivan, two friends of Pau who are “pumped” about seeing Anna Fritz’s dead body, which has just been admitted to the morgue under Pau’s watch. The three men take shots of what looks like rum and snort a few lines of cocaine before molesting and having sex with the corpse (Javi abstains and scolds his two friends for this act of necrophilia, but never goes as far as stopping the two in any meaningful way).
In an unexplained turn of events, Anna wakes up to see Pau having his way with her, and she is only able to respond with tears. Pau and the others are shocked to see Anna is alive, and they strategize what to do next. After all, Spain and the rest of the world believe Anna is a corpse, and to reveal her mysterious rise from the dead will implicate the three of deplorable sex acts on this beloved celebrity.
The rest of the story is quite engaging, forcing the viewer to hope Anna can regain her strength and overcome what is now a film about kidnapping and shutting up the victim of rape, an apt metaphor for victim blaming. Ivan, serving as the immoral center in this unholy trinity of men, is leading the effort to cover up this incident, even if that means (re)killing Anna so she can shut up once and for all.
What ensues is a series of escape attempts from Anna, some of which are very harrowing and, dare I say, entertaining, but the movie never veers into exploitation outside its troubling first act. Rape, after all, is a difficult subject matter for film because it violates social taboos and the bond of consenting adults. If you are disgusted by what you see on the screen, good; it is meant to upset. But what The Corpse of Anna Fritz does right is remind us that rape is less a way of satisfying a desire and more an act of overpowering another human being.
Being that Anna was dead and very famous is also a commentary on our relationship with celebrity, especially given the context of the recent phone hacking scandal which saw the nude photos of mostly female American celebrities dispersed throughout the internet. This voyeuristic culture, one that is absolutely real and acknowledged, however clumsily by the Spanish government, is far more disturbing than any movie of fiction.
While we are supposed to consider the serious subject matter of this movie, perhaps nothing is more fantastical then the movie’s final act, where we see Anna regain her strength and kill her captors. Why is this more fantasy than even the film’s premise? If we are to see the three men as a metaphor for an inept justice system, an ineffective Ministry, or a larger rape culture, then we must see Anna as a composite for the women who have been unjustly under-served by the forces that strip her of human dignity. In many respects, these women (and men) cannot, do not, or struggle to, rebuild their lives even if justice is on their side. Anna can kill her captors, but that does little to restore her dignity. Most films, most famously Wes Craven's The Last House on the Left and its recent remake, must allow the audience to at least feel justice and morality prevail, thus allowing us to enjoy rapists to be killed by their victims in grisly ways. The experience is cathartic, even if pure fantasy, and remind of us our humanity.
That justice has been served with Anna’s use of hospital scissors to the gut of her rapists, when in reality, she would still be a slab growing colder and silent, much like many victims of sexual abuse. Whether or not this film is meant to serve as a voice for the silent is yet to be seen (doubtful, since the subject matter will not appeal to mass audiences), but in a broader context, where Lady Gaga uses the Oscars as a platform for this discussion, is a telling sign that our moral outrage may extend to something more tangible beyond our disgust when viewing a movie, a documentary, or a story on the news. Hopefully it means that we all rise from the dead - like Anna - and we refrain from easy silences.
The Corpse of Anna Fritz is available on DVD 8th of March and exclusively at flixfling.com
Images: IMDb & hollywoodnews.com