Chile, 1973. When he's not buried in a pile of paperwork, mortuary clerk Mario (Castro) has the eye for his sexy neighbour Nancy (Zegers). But the sudden, violent coup against President Allende's government gives Mario a vast number of new corpses to sort through. To compound the horror of his new task, Nancy has disappeared and the country is plunged into tumult.
For the two protagonists in Pablo Larraín’s latest feature, small comfort comes against the backdrop of the 1973 Chilean military coup that put an end to socialist President Salvador Allende. Mario Cornejo (Alfredo Castro) spends his days typing up autopsy reports; at night he harbours desires for his neighbour, a dancer called Nancy (Antonia Zegers). As Chile implodes, Nancy is forced into hiding while Mario is press-ganged into cataloguing the endless bodies that pile up daily under the new regime. Larraín lets the action happen off camera, as if a silent witness to the torment, the sound of horror building up off screen. Central to the film is the autopsy of Allende’s body: galling yet beautifully underplayed, it’s the quiet lingering among the coup’s bloody hammer-blows, Nancy and Mario on the margins, caught stark against the pages of history.
A sometimes shocking, often moving journey through a blood-stained corner of the past. Like Costa Gavras's Missing through the eyes of an everyday Chilean.
Reviewed by Philip Wilding