YEAR OF THE CANNIBALS, d. Liliana Cavali (1970)
'I Cannibali' is a film loosely based on a two thousand year old Greek text: ‘Antigone’ by Sophocles. The action takes place in a faceless but fascistic modern city state, a place where the bodies of executed ‘rebels’ block the pavements and roads, are left strewn across fields and piled up on waste ground. It is strictly forbidden to touch the bodies, let alone bury them, so the oppressed people have learned to step over them as if they were bags of rubbish. Indeed, government propaganda describes the bodies as ‘garbage’, and their decaying remains are linked to immorality, to corruption. As the slogan says: ‘rebels make you vomit’ - figuratively, literally.
Antigone (Britt Ekland, very serious) is haunted by her murdered brother’s unburied body, and teams up with a sympathetic foreigner to defy the law and move her brother’s corpse (and others) to a place of sanctity. The foreigner is called Tiresias, and is played by Pierre Clementi, an extraordinary presence in a number of outstanding films of the period. Tiresias’ symbol is the sign of the fish, a clear allusion to one of the first organised attempts to subvert an oppressive regime. With his bright eyes and scruffy little beard, Clementi played both Jesus and Satan in his career, the latter most notably in Bunuel’s ‘The Milky Way’ (1969).
Antigone and Tiresias’ rebellion is short lived, as they are quickly arrested, separated, interrogated, beaten and shuffled around various Brutalist buildings. Eventually, they are murdered and dumped on the street, but they will not stay unburied for long.