The Corpse of Anna Fritz
Written by Hèctor Hernández Vicens and Isaac P. Creus
Directed by Hèctor Hernández Vicens
The objectification of women and the ravenous consumption of celebrity culture are some of the very clear themes that inform the narrative of The Corpse of Anna Fritz, the debut feature of Spanish director Hèctor Hernández Vicens. It’s a shame then that what begins as a fascinating dialogue with these themes gives way to an unremarkably straight forward thriller plot which has little to no bearing on what came before.
Superstar celebrity actress Anna Fritz (Alba Ribas) has been found dead at a party. Only hours later, when she is wheeled into the morgue, hospital orderly Pau (Albert Carbó) can’t resist taking a picture of the corpse on his phone to send to his friends Ivan (Cristian Valencia) and Javi (Bernat Saumell), who in due course arrive at the hospital to get a closer look at this dead celebrity in the flesh. Upon seeing (and touching) such a famous actress, Ivan decides to have sex with the corpse. This bad deed sets off a chain of events that spiral quickly out of the men’s control.
In the first thirty minutes, The Corpse of Anna Fritz suggests some fascinating ideas about female celebrity and the male gaze. As Anna is first wheeled in on the gurney, there is voice over from various media outlets commenting on actress’s life and career; how beautiful she is, what dresses she wears, her film roles and the directors she has worked with. When Pau is introduced his first act is to take a photo on his phone of the body. When Ivan is introduced his first real line of dialogue is to ask Javi if he would have sex with a couple of women he spies in the waiting room. One can imagine the scene soon to play out when all these elements are brought into each other’s orbit.
The ideas reach fever pitch when Pau shows the body to his pals. Ivan, clearly the ring leader, can’t help himself from touching her and the fact that it is a corpse is overshadowed by the awe of celebrity that surrounds her. There is almost an unspoken but accepted belief in the idea that once someone becomes famous, the public owns them, that their life is now ours. This belief is what drives Ivan’s infatuation with Anna Fritz’s corpse. Now he has this most coveted of objects he cannot pass up the opportunity to possess it physically. As Ivan is established as a man who objectifies women, Anna becomes the ultimate object for him and he acts accordingly.
Unfortunately, after this setup, things go downhill fairly quickly. A moment comes in the film where the story shifts and all the interesting reflection on celebrity and sexual taboo give way to a standard thriller plot. This element is perfectly solid as far as thrillers go, but it completely overrides everything fascinating about the film and rides it out until the end. With a running time of only 70-odd minutes, it feels that a little more exploration of the themes, or an incorporation of them into the action, would not have gone astray.
The performances from the four leads are perfectly fine, with special notice to Alba Ribas who has to spend the majority of the film lying on a hospital gurney, and she handles her scenes well for someone whose mobility is hindered for almost the entire film. The cinematography by Ricard Canyellas is also impressive, as the film takes place in a morgue. He and director Vicens find inventive ways of placing the camera in such a confined space that it works well to help build the tension between the characters.
The Corpse of Anna Fritz is an admirable low budget thriller that shows a promising career for director Vicens but, unfortunately, the whole endeavour is a little bit underdone. To begin the film with such an interesting premise, which is then completely discarded feels like a huge missed opportunity. What could have been a fascinating exploration of celebrity and sexuality becomes a rather by-the-numbers thriller that is unfortunately quite unexceptional.
The BFI London Film Festival takes place from October 7 – October 18. Visit the festival’s official website for more information.