Cannibal Holocaust

Cannibal Holocaust ★★★★★

Death in the afternoon (which, in my case, means: shortly after standing up).

There just isn't another film that makes me feel as (constantly!) uncomfortable as this one does. Which it should make, given its theme: the cruelty of colonialism in the age of the (Super 8)camera.

Exploitation cinema's „Brevissima relación de la destrucción de las Indias“ („Brief Relation of the Destruction of the West Indian Countries“, by Bartolomé de las Casas, a missionary who travelled with Columbus and, later, wrote his bitter critique of the cruelty of the European colonizers that he found damaging to the Catholic cause. One of his stories: an Amerindian, sentenced to death was asked wether he wanted to be baptised so that he could go to heaven after his execution. He asked if that was where the Spainiards go. When he got an affirmative answer, he said that he wouldn't want to go to a place where such cruel people lived. One of the many cruel practices he depicted was burning the huts with their inmates still inside. Something which might sound familiar to you, if you've ever seen CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST.)

The adventure movie feeling of the beginning of this is a trap for the audience. Similar, on the one hand, to the parody of an ultra generic, shamelessly cheap slasher in the beginning of the first THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE. On the other hand, in Deodato there's more to it: the adventure movie here is understood as a (colonialist and hence: one-sided) special cultural practice of gazing. And the anthropologist who time and again has to look away from the natives' cruelty is just a part of that gazing, his (and our) disgust (and shame) of the bestiality of men - that, as the second part of the movie that's mirroring the first clearly indicates, lives on in our present western culture.

That in said second half the camera never ever looks away from anything, especially when the woman of our murderous filmmaker trio doesn't want to be filmed naked or defecating sums up the simple visual program of the film probably better than anything else: it's about never looking away from *anything* human: may it be consensual sex, taking a shit, rape or murder.

The hope behind that may be that such an agenda *could* lead to any form of catharsis. If it does or even really, really wants to, is beyond me. I only know that I had to take my eyes off the screen, really couldn't stand the showdown. And, I think, that's a natural healthy reaction.

The Ortolani score is, at the very least, the best one in a film like this that isn't written by Morricone. With that helicopter shot of the jungle in the opening credits, coming back later on, for instance during the rape or the burning of the huts it's nothing short of a very melodic beautiful lament for the aspects of human nature we're witnessing in this bloody masterpiece.

(I watched, btw, out of sheer curiosity, a version where the animal cruelty isn't completely cut out but altered in different ways by Deodato himself. Interesting to have seen it like that but not really a must by a long shot.)