Exploring the Inner Mind of a Serial Killer
Review of Cannibal at SIFF by Vida Behar
Cannibal, a Spanish thriller directed by Manuel Martín Cuenca, is about a Carlos, a Granada tailor with a concealed desire for human flesh who has to grapple with the fact that he has fallen in love with his next prospective victim. In the words of Carlos, “I kill them. And I eat them.”
There are many splendid aspects of this movie, especially the unique cinematography. Much of the beginning shots feature small pockets bright of light in an ocean in darkness and were either very zoomed out so that the only thing the viewer sees is taking up a tiny fraction of the screen and everything else is just darkness, or focusing on the faces of the characters to the point that they hardly looked like faces and instead just like patches of light. This kind of “light in a tunnel of darkness” aesthetic is used when the tailor, Carlos, is in a dark place and is symbolic of his tainted mind, whereas in other parts of the movie it is the opposite where the viewer sees an ocean of white snow with just two black figures, which is symbolic of the purity and uncontaminated nature of his psyche when he is with his amour.
Another cinematographic aspect of this movie is the recurring image of Carlos in a doorway, which reminds one of his internal conflict regarding his murderous tendencies and how he finds himself in a crossroads. This movie is more than two hours long, and it feels like most of it is decoding the character Carlos and what his true motives are — as the female protagonist questions why he is doing what he is doing, so does the viewer.
One of my major problems with this movie was the pacing. The action is practically nonexistent until the very last scene and though it should be acknowledged that the director’s intent was probably to slowly build up intensity until the very end, the pacing is so ridiculously slow that one completely loses interest within the first hour of not much actually happening, and because of that it’s no longer scary or suspenseful.
The plot and the characters themselves are spectacular, especially the unique idea of exploring the inner mind of a serial killer. It's upsetting because Cannibal had the potential to be a truly great movie if only the director hadn’t overdone the slow buildup to the action.
So if you have a short attention span, clearly Cannibal is not the movie for you. However, if you’re confident in your powers of concentration Cannibal is probably worth watching.
Seattle International Film Festival
Screenings May 31 and June 1