The Awakening/Aftermath/Genesis: The Silent Nacho Cerda Trilogy
Dir. Nacho Cerda (1990, 1994, 1998)
Aftermath is another film I had heard a ton about. I had always heard it as Aftermath/Genesis, and it wasn't until I got my disc in the mail from Netflix that I became aware that there was a third movie on the disc, the opening short "The Awakening." These three shorts were released together, and while they span a period of 8 years, they're quite ambitious for the beginning of a directorial career. That being said, there is a vast difference between the style of The Awakening and Aftermath. As such, I'd really like to split these into three separate reviews. So here goes.
The Awakening was Ignacio "Nacho" Cerda's debut short, and its certainly a rough cut. It's the same quality as a student film, but it really was quite entertaining. The production value was certainly limited, but the story was there, and, being a silent film, the dialogue was not the struggle that it can be for young and inexperienced directors. The story is about a teenager who awakes from a nap in class to discover that the entire world around him is frozen in time. He wanders around the classroom, and eventually realizes, as things start back up again, that he actually died during class. What was really interesting about this short to me was that I had literally never heard of it when I watched it. I was aware of the other two films, although admittedly very little about the third in the lineup, but I didn't even know this film existed. And to be honest, for an opening film, it wasn't half bad. I mean, it wasn't amazing. It's really hard to hit amazing in like 8 minutes, but it was really well done for what it was. Entertaining, and the perfect length for the idea, Cerda definitely did a great job for a first outing.
Aftermath, the second film in the self-contained trilogy, was also eye-opening. It follows the story of a morgue worker who is, lets say, a little too involved in his work. The movie opens as he and a fellow worker are performing autopsies on two corpses, and Cerda makes the film sufficiently gory for their job. He moves on to a woman who clearly strikes his fancy, and as he takes her apart piece by piece, removing most of her innards in the process, he gets aroused and does his business with the corpse. He sets a camera on the table to record his indiscretion, and when he's done, he sews her back up and takes her heart back to his house to feed to his dog. It's simple, straightforward, and pretty disturbing. And, again, all without saying a word. Gotta say, Cerda is either really good at his use of sound without dialogue, or he just can't write for shit. Either way, Aftermath is pretty effective. The coroner, who did a wonderful job of being as skeezy and creepy as possible, was fantastic in being a believable necrophiliac. It was pretty disturbing conceptually, but it was also very realistically gory. You could've actually been watching an autopsy, and you could've actually been watching the dude have sex with the corpse. It occurs to me as I write that that if you are just a standard horror movie viewer, and you don't go out of your way to watch the sickest and most disturbing movies you can, that I sound pretty fucked up. But I promise, it really is good! It's a wonderfully shot movie, concise in time and plot, and very well done for, again, a second effort. Cerda's limited catalogue is kinda sad, as he's clearly a pretty effective filmmaker at this point.
The third and final film in the trilogy is Genesis, and is, quite frankly, the most beautiful and well-done of the three. It had the feel of an Oscar-nominated short film, and while not as famous as its younger brother Aftermath, was quite possibly the best of the three. The story revolves around a sculptor who loses his wife in a car accident, and his love for her leads him to make the most realistic sculptures possible, and he eventually sacrifices his life as he transforms into a sculpture, breathing life into his statue, which becomes a physical manifestation of his wife. The anguish that the man feels is tangible, and you can see the sorrow that he feels as his statue begins to crumble away, not knowing that it is actually coming to life. The actor, Pep Tosar, who portrayed a complete reversal of his previous role as the sicko who molested the dead girl in Aftermath, did a stellar job of bringing the antagonist through the death and rebirth of his wife, as well as his subsequent evolution into a statue. The score, a soft classical movement, matches perfectly the flow of the short, and at 30 minutes, its easily digested even though the pacing is fairly slow. Masterful work, and I again am left lamenting that Cerda has yet to really advance his filmography. It's a shame, and I'd really love to see more from him.
I've always been a huge fan of Stephen King, but for my money, nothing speaks to me and interests me as much as his short story collections. Short, easily read in a sitting, and never too wordy or involved, they were the perfect way to experience King's genius without being undone by his immense word count. These movies, to me, fit the same mold. I watched all three back to back, and it totaled roughly 1 hour and 8 minutes of footage, as the first movie clocked in at 8 minutes and the second two at 30 minutes apiece. I was surprised that I enjoyed these as much as I did for how basic they were, and I was shocked that they were as genuinely well done as they were. I've seen a lot of short films from budding directors, and I have rarely been as impressed as I was by this impressive trilogy. I feel like its a must-see for gore hounds, and I believe that it appeals to non-hardcore viewers as well.
Bottom line: Nacho Cerda is the short silent type. And he's really good at it. Check it out if you ever get the chance, and I think you'll come away from it with a desire to see more from him and Spanish filmmakers in general.