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Pablo Larraín’s Post Mortem

Pablo Larraín, Post Mortem, 2010, still from a color film in 16 mm transferred to 35 mm, 98 minutes. Mario Cornejo (Alfredo Castro).

ETIOLATING LIGHT turns Chile into a nation of wraiths in Post Mortem, Pablo Larraín’s baleful allegory set at the time of the US-backed coup that deposed Salvador Allende in 1973. “Nothing can escape the wheel of history,” Dr. Castillo, chief coroner and dialectician at a Santiago hospital, proclaims early in the film, a point made literal in Mortem’s first image, a pulverizing long take from the undercarriage of an army tank as it grinds its way down a debris-strewn avenue. The film’s two self-absorbed protagonists do their best to ignore the imminence of history, falling into a catatonic love affair amid the escalating chaos. Mario Cornejo (Alfredo Castro), a sallow, lank-haired morgue assistant with deadened eyes—less Thin White Duke than ashen Nosferatu—furtively dotes on Nancy Puelma (Antonia Zegers), the anorexic cabaret dancer from across the way. (The film could

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