This is not a question of the artistic quality (not excellent but not so terrible) of the film directed by the Norwegian director Jarand Herdal. What makes Cadaver the right film for these weeks are its founding themes: catastrophe and closed theaters. Everything will be fine?
Of horror must see for Halloween, the cinemas closed, the platforms are full streaming, and enthusiasts are spoiled for choice.
And yet, I had to recommend a film, instead of the usual suspects my choice would fall on Cadaver, film directed by the Norwegian Jarand Herdal which has been available for a few days on Netflix.
A choice that after all has very little to do with the artistic merits of this strange film, which are not excellent, although its initial bizarre and desire to propose a different story than usual are appreciable. In fact, to make Cadaver the right movie for the 2020 Halloween are its founding themes: the catastrophe and closed theaters (where the theaters are synecdoche also of cinema and live music and in general of the tortured entertainment sector).
Cadaver: will everything be okay?
The protagonists of Cadaver are Leonora, her husband Jacob, and their daughter Alice.
Leonora, Jacob and Alice live in a generic Norwegian city, half-destroyed by a catastrophe that has hit the planet, and which for once in recent times is not viral in nature but due to the good old nuclear bugbear. All around them is devastation, rapacity, death and desolation: the few survivors wander the streets under leaden skies in search of food, so as not to die of hunger. But, despite the situation, Leonora repeats – and will repeat throughout the film – her optimistic mantra: “Everything will be fine”. Does it remind you of anything?
The theaters closed, except one
The fact is that one day a strange barker arrives at Leonora’s house, who advertises free access to a great and unmissable theatrical show, complete with dinner offered and included in the entrance, organized in a large former hotel that vaguely recalls the Royal Palace of Oslo. For Leonora, who before the atomic disaster was a famous stage actress, and who still uses acting to chase away Alice’s fears, and tries to keep the flame of fantasy, creativity and entertainment alive in the child, it is about an unmissable opportunity. And, despite Jacob’s doubts – who, unlike her, doesn’t think everything will always be okay, and who, after all, doesn’t care much about the theater – pushes the whole family to go.
Surviving is not enough
What Leonora and family are faced with, organized by a mysterious host named Mathias Vinterberg (yes, just like Danish Thomas), is an immersive theater show, in which actors and spectators mix together in all the places of that great hotel, all heavy damask curtains and red carpets, woods on the walls and strange animal paintings.
To distinguish those who play from those who follow the play, masks worn by the latter. But the masks will soon fall, in all senses, and Alice will vanish in that very little wonderful and very disturbing country, and going to her search Leonora and Jacob will discover the truth about the show of which they will become protagonists and about its organizer and director.
The catastrophe, the closed theaters, the “everything will be fine”. If that wasn’t enough to make it Cadaver a movie casually but perfectly embedded in our messed up present, there is also the phrase that Mathias Vinterberg repeats at the beginning of each representation of his show: it is not enough for the human being to survive. He must feel, feel emotions. Emotions, it is understood, that only art can generate.
Art and hunger
And then there is the great theme of hunger, of what to eat, of how to survive: because art nourishes the spirit, but the stomach also wants its part. The catastrophe brought crisis, the hunger crisis. And hunger brings despair and cruelty.
Unfortunately for us, in Cadaver, between Leonora’s desperate optimism and Jacob’s stubborn realism, he is the second to be the most sensible. At least up to a certain point. Because despite everything that happens, and which is something that concerns everything we have said so far, Leonora will find the way to survival precisely in theater and in her art.
That last ray of sunshine
It will then be just an effect scene, but the last shot with which Jarand Herdal decided to close his film is significant. A film that could have been written better, developed better than the original and interesting premises, but which sees good protagonists (the Scandinavians are a guarantee in this) from a formal and visual point of view is definitely interesting, in a stylization that seems to want ambitiously to merge in a single aesthetic and narrative gaze The Game by David Fincher, Hostel by Eli Roth, The Road di John Hillcoat, Delicatessen of Jeunet and Caro, The hole by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia and even a little bit of Shining e Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick.
In the last scene of Cadaver, we see the gray and gloomy city, pregnant with death on its streets, apparently without a future. And, in the background, the hotel / theater where Leonora and her family collided with perhaps even worse horror. Which, however, is the only place where a ray of sunshine shines.