Review: Aftermath

Posted by Peter Hall - December 7th 2006 @ 10:38 pm

Written and Directed by Nacho Cerda, 1994

Nacho Cerda's Aftermath

Aftermath is art so rare, so exacting and so human that it will penetrate all who view it to their deepest core.  This is not theory, this is irrefutable fact.  It is gravity.  Nacho Cerda’s short film is a definition of gravity possessing such validity that had Newton seen it, he’d of amended Principa to state that, "All who enter the path of Aftermath subject themselves to permanent, albeit subtle, changes in their psychological course."

In thirty minutes flat it will strip away all armor, all defenses and all preconceived barriers, exposing every viewer’s vulnerabilities to hitherto untested levels of sensitivity whose virginal violation is unforgettable.  If a person has gracefully spent their life without witnessing death first hand, Aftermath will hypnotize said person into believing they just have.  It is that convincing.

And it will achieve all this without a single line of dialogue. 

While hardly recommendable to anyone but those with the kind of constitution made possible only by time tested exposure to all levels of horror, watching it for the first time is an experience that will halt your day in its tracks.  It is a film so finely crafted that respect for its construction reigns supreme even in the face of imagery so vile, so haunting and so effortlessly disturbing that the process of watching it becomes the ultimate test of one’s aforementioned constitution.

This is not exaggeration.  The magnitude of its effect on a person is certainly variable, but the presence of the effect is invariable.  It will be there.  Creeping up on you.  Creeping into you until it takes over every instinctual reaction you have.

Set almost exclusively within the walls of a morgue, Cerda’s thesis weaves the tale of death’s aftermath.  The imagery is of a pathologist performing routine medical procedures in complete harmony with acts of seemingly routine necrophilia.  The meaning, however, is far less barbaric and far more complex.

Yes, Cerda employs make up effects so flawless and so ruthless that its only a matter of time before the viewer questions whether or not the filmmaker used actual dead bodies.  But he uses all of this to highlight one of the universal, but unsaid fears of death:  What happens to your physical body once you’ve ceased to animate its cells?

This is what happens:  zero control.  And the reality of this lack of self management – whether these activities are common or not is unimportant – is down right shattering.  It is a relatively unsaid fear, but after witnessing it the thoughts of, "My God!  Could that be me?" will remain hidden forever.

The film is beautiful.  It is unfathomably disgusting, but Gods damn is it wonderfully made.  Crisp picture with a dreamy color palate.  A sweeping, endless musical score that is classy beyond what one associates with modern horror.  And direction so uninhibited that other directors viewing Cerda’s work must have been struck dumb with the knowledge that art of this powerful caliber is possible even when the canvas is vomit inducing.

It took me a long time to see Aftermath, but having now seen it I can honestly state that I’ve not seen its equal.  Like the material or not – most likely not – Nacho Cerda has created a timeless masterpiece of daring filmmaking.

I have nothing but respect for the man in doing so.  Even if watching it dumped me into a pit of psychological despair.


rss 16 comments
  1. Christine
    December 8th, 2006 | 8:11 am | #1

    Vulgar…Erotic…Grotesque…Bizarre…Dirty…yet my eyes never left the screen

    Nacho Cerda had a vision and succeeded at delivering a film both beautifully perfected and hypnotically believable.

    Of course, the “poetic justice” of it all is that believing in such a reality is so very unbelievable.

    GG Cerda

  2. December 8th, 2006 | 2:23 pm | #2

    Oh God! Peter, she’s talking like you now! :P

  3. December 8th, 2006 | 4:38 pm | #3

    The director’s first name is Nacho? Now I gotta try and convince my wife to let me name our kid Taquito.

    Damnit, now I’m hungry.

  4. PhreEk
    December 14th, 2006 | 9:23 pm | #4

    Wow, I need to see this now.

  5. Elaina
    March 13th, 2007 | 1:16 am | #5

    This Aftermath looks extremely appealing to me hence, I’m 23 and in college working to be a surgeon, this opening human bodies does nothing to me really (not that i’m insensitive). So I might actually enjoy watching some of that, though I have no interest in neco-anything. You just don’t go there. lol

  6. Elaina
    March 13th, 2007 | 1:18 am | #6

    I meant *necro-anything*….can’t wait to buy the dvd soon.

  7. March 13th, 2007 | 7:14 pm | #7

    I’ll get a review up of it in a few weeks, when the R1 DVD comes out, but you may also want to keep your eye on a flick called Unrest, which involves medical students trying to cope with a fresh body.

  8. sean
    December 16th, 2007 | 8:57 pm | #8

    Wow, this is the first film i’ve seen that has made me physically ill.

    Did you like the other two shorts that were on it?

    I thought the third, Genesis, was really impressive in it’s story.

  9. December 17th, 2007 | 4:27 pm | #9

    I thought Genesis was great, as well, but to me Aftermath is just a masterpiece.

  10. Brian
    January 30th, 2008 | 10:37 am | #10

    I finally got this on Netflix based on your review.

    You have ruined my life.

  11. Brian
    January 30th, 2008 | 10:37 am | #11

    Also, are you on the Netflix? I’d love to “friend” you so I can check out your queue and shit.

  12. January 30th, 2008 | 2:43 pm | #12

    Art’ll do that some times.

    I am on Netflix, but I very, very, very, very, very rarely use it anymore. We actually just downgraded to the bare minimum plan, since the discs were just sitting for months on end. Email for it is petershall @ gmail.com

  13. Timber
    June 2nd, 2009 | 9:12 pm | #13

    Haven’t seen this, but I’ve been fascinated by the discussions of this, along with those of Martyrs and Inside, which I’m also reluctant to confront.

    Having read your description, though, I have to ask: even if they are depicted in the most graphic and realistic manner, how are acts committed on a lifeless corpse comparable in effect to the torture and abuse of living people we see in other films?

  14. June 2nd, 2009 | 9:43 pm | #14

    Timber, Great question, one which I’m not sure I’ll do justice. It’s important to establish a distinction between the two concepts (necrophilia and torture) and the two concepts as conveyed on film. Conceptually, empathy and fear is obviously one sided. As humans we care more about what being tortured than being violated when we’re dead; on screen, however, that’s a different matter.

    We’re always aware that we’re watching a film. If it’s torture, the audience’s empathy hinges on the conveyance of the director as well as the performance of both the torturer and the tortured. Any link in that chain can tame the experience. More often than not the weak link ends up being the actor playing the tortured, be it because of their talent or their off-screen presence.

    With merely one actor on screen (an unknown at that) and a remarkably realistic cadaver, the opportunity for a weak link is reduced. In the case of AFTERMATH we have a subversive director and a terrific unknown actor, doesn’t take long before we forget that it’s all prosthetic trickery, making what we see just as effective as watching living people being abused.

  15. Woot!
    September 23rd, 2010 | 7:08 pm | #15

    It was quite disturbing even for myself which says alot. I had a friend watch and have never seen such discomfort!

  16. Tony
    January 22nd, 2012 | 10:48 pm | #16

    I want to agree with your assessment, given that this site led me to Martyrs, but I don’t think I was nearly as impressed as everyone else here. I couldn’t get past that the cadavers, to me, felt fake the whole time. I never had that sense that real violation was taking place.

    It seemed in some shots they did so well making them look real, like the closeup of the face of the bearded guy, or when they show the head of the bald guy getting jerked as his torso was getting stitched. But whenever they touched the faces of the dead, the unnatural rubbery fakes became really evident. This prevented me from ever allowing myself to think this was “real”.

    Grossed out by the effects, yes, but that’s about it. The deeper violation meaning you cite is lost on me.

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