El amor es insaciable.
Manuel Martin Cuenca and Alejandro Hernandez‘s CANNIBAL (Caníbal) 2013 is a semi-romantic drama about Carlos (Antonio de la Torre), a prestigious Spanish tailor in Granada, with an insatiable appetite for human flesh. In subtle brutality, his meticulousness carries over from his pursuit of his victims to the ritualistic methods he uses to carve, prepare and dines on their flesh. The film begins with murder and dismemberment. Carlos feels no remorse nor guilt for his murder depicted beautifully in an extreme long-shot. All without any indication or predilection into the tailor’s macabre tastes. Only that the event pair with a scene from a church, just as a priest offers his assembly sacramental bread.
Ritual melancholy is the dominating mood that is Carlos’s life. That is, until Alexandra (Olimpia Melinte), a beautiful Romanian woman moves in an apartment upstairs from his. She is argumentive and plays loud music. At night, Alexandra seductively undress in an open window, while our tailor silently watches. Once too often, Alexandra, poke around the tailor’s shop, invades his home and violates Carlos’s importance to maintain a low-profile. True to form, Carlos discreetly allows for her “disappearance” from the scene. Thereafter, her twin sister, Nina (also played by Melinte), arrives and begins to ask about her missing sister. Unlike Alexandra, Nina is polite and quiet. Eventually, Carlos becomes more involved with her by escorting her to the police station to file a missing person’s report, gives her money to send to her parents, and sits with her for a vegetarian meal. His struggle to be normal reveals an understated assessment or even perhaps offer a glimmer of hope that love may be all that our tailor needs to change.
Although the film’s emphasis is that of a love story, the direction is slow and deliberate, allowing for the viewer to identify with Carlos. Make no mistake, he is a monster. Cuenca’s method for storytelling–the beautiful snowy landscapes, the way the camera allows for viewers to follow Carlos on the hunt, and as if we were a guest in his home. We sit quietly, watch and wait as he prepares his meal in the same explicit detail he lays the finest textiles in his shop. There is no gore to observe. Not too much blood except for a single ribbon that creeps along the seam of a marble embalming table.
There also isn’t much dialogue in the film and much depends on what is not said. Simply put, Cuenca’s Cannibal is a fascinating character study through complicated subject matter. Or that Carlos’ love story is that of the love of the flesh, cooked rare, and served with a glass of dark-red wine.
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