Film Reviews:

Dellamorte Dellamore

aka Cemetary Man

(Michele Soavi, It, 1994)

Francesco Dellamorte lives where he works: in the cemetery as a caretaker. He is 30 years old, but mentally he is still a teenager. Gnaghi is Francesco's faithful assistant. He is a mute - short, fat and mischievous. Dellamorte's world is small: he has just his work, his obsessive love affairs and his games. He has no cares for the world outside the cemetery which he sees as vulgar, garish and abrasive. But his world is thrown into turmoil when the bodies in the cemetery begin to rise at night from their graves and a widow enters his life whom he falls in love with. With a casual attitude he destroys the walking dead without a second thought but he is unable to cope with a simple relationship with the opposite sex. His world becomes more chaotic as the image of the widow appears to him again as the mayor's secretary and as a young prostitute. It seems impossible for Dellamorte to retain his normal life in the cemetery and succeed in love, these two aspects seem totally opposed to each other. His romantic failures lead to him turning his zombie killing techniques to their living counterparts, much to the distress of the local police force.

Rupert Everett plays Francesco Dellamorte, the character taken from the cult Italian comic by Tiziano Sclavi - a neat twist of casting since it was Everett that Sclavi based his Dylan Dog character on in the first instance. I've not been an Everett fan in the past - I've never found him convincing - but here he excels, despite his well-documented post-production complaints of working on the film. The rest of the cast are just as good but remain on the periphery and Everett admirably carries the film, his performance proof of his talent. Michele Soavi says that Dellamorte Dellamore is his first 'really personal film' and it shows. Not afraid to experiment either visually or narratively, this is an unusual film that can be viewed on two levels but is best enjoyed on one. The intellectuals out there will, no doubt, make much of the symbolism and metaphors to be found in Gianni Romoli's screenplay (who also acts as one of three producers). Most of that went over my head but what us lesser mortals are left with is a satirical horror comedy that obviously has deeper connotations.

The extreme changes in musical style (by Manuel De Sica) reflect the changing tones of the film and although it veers from gory horror to philosophy the whole thing melds together surprisingly well. Soavi pinches parts of his favourite compositions by favourite artists and these are reworked by De Sica at appropriate moments to moving effect. Beethoven is used when Dellamorte starts to kill innocent bystanders - just as it is in A Clockwork Orange, sections of Philip Glass' score for Koyaanisqatsi crop up again (Soavi has used this several times in earlier films) but less obvious and incredibly effective is a movement from Tangerine Dream's pulsating score for Thief. Individual scenes are often very short but the titular character's narration joins it all and offers quirky insight into the bizarre events surrounding him.

Rob Dyer

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