Des Morts (Of the Dead)

With his two films, Des Morts and Vase de Noces, young Belgian filmmaker Thierry Zeno has stirred up as much controversy in his day as did Bunuel with L'Age D'Or and Un Chien Andalou. And, like Bunuel, Zeno has elicited a great deal more than controversy: his films have been shown at the New York Museum of Modern Art, the Chicago Film Festival and L.A.'s Filmex. Amos Vogel says of Zeno: "He probes, as all true subversives do, the outer reaches of human existence, the borderlands we dread yet must explore before we can finally feel the full measure of our human-ness." (Film Comment) This controversial documentary deals with death - with the dead and the living they leave behind. Designed to present a physical exposure and frankness alien to Western culture, the film is openly disturbing, and viewers should be warned of its graphic nature. Such images as the decomposing face of a beloved mother in Thailand, shot in a series of close ups; the inside of a crematorium as a body is burning; the chopping up of bodies in an autopsy room, make this film definitely not one for the squeamish. Filmed in Mexico, the United States, Belgium, South Korea, Thailand and Nepal, Des Morts counterposes the funeral rites and pageantry of the East, collective and active, to the hygienic, technological, private and personally isolating rituals of the West. In a recent article in Film Comment, Amos Vogel calls Des Morts an "austere masterpiece," one which "compels us to stare into the face of Death, our unacknowledged deity and implacable enemy. This is not 'television death'.... This is actual death, seen mercilessly, without compromise, unflinchingly, in close-up, as a process; the chain of nature demanding continued change toward entropy even more insistently after life has ceased. This is destruction of the last taboo by a subversive.... To recall us to our physicality... is an act of utmost humanity, a heavy blow for feeling, caring, learning who we are within the cosmos."

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