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BERLINALE 2011 Panorama/UK/US

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3D The Mortician emotionally engaging

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UK director Gareth Maxwell RobertsThe Mortician, co-produced by Full Circle Films and Film and Music Entertainment from the UK, and Belladonna Productions and Films in Motion on the US side, is an interesting 3D crime drama that takes a while to really get started but eventually delivers an emotional punch.

The title character, played by hip-hop artist/producer/actor Method Man, lives in an unspecified American city, fully dedicated to his work. A memory concerning his mother tortures him so much that he is permanently tense, never able to relax or have a proper sleep, and his only emotional connection is with the good-hearted prostitute Ava (Dana Fuchs). One day he gets an assistant, a young Latino man on parole named Noah (E.J. Bonilla), who is in trouble with a gang ruling the neighbourhood, led by the sociopathic Carver (Dash Mihok, a strange choice for the Latino composition of the gang, with his ginger beard and bright eyes). Carver is looking for the boy Kane,whom we see hanging around a mortician’s laboratory after the body of a murdered young woman has been brought for – as the say – processing. It takes almost an hour into the film for the plot concerning these characters to start developing, but then it gets very dynamic and engaging.

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The Mortician’s America is an ugly place, teeming with the financial crisis, poverty, crime and drug addiction. Most of the buildings are ruined, surrounded by wire fences and barbwire-topped high walls. Cinematographer Michael McDonough (also known for arthouse hit Winter’s Bone) uses 3D to heighten the effect, frequently using the fences as a window pane on the screen, right in front of the spectators’ eyes. As usual with 3D, details in darker parts of the picture are almost impossible to make out, but gory images of the mortician’s work become very effective.

This indie film budgeted at reported €1.5m proves that 3D technology is becoming increasingly available and could spawn a new trend outside major studio fare.

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