Written and Directed by Nacho Cerda, 1994
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.