Dellamorte Dellamore A.K.A. Cemetery Man (1994)
'Dellamorte Dellamore' A.K.A. 'Cemetery Man' (1994) marked Michele Soavi's fourth film and showcases his talents as a competent and artistic director.
'Dellamorte Dellamore' is a fantastic film with solid performances from the actors, great direction and production values, with some really cool gore effects.
'Dellamorte Dellamore' boasts a deep and rich narrative addressing philosophical existential issues about life and death, without being too cynical about the subject matter, the film is incredibly funny in a dark but playful manner.
Italian films usually have a certain charm to them, which 'Dellamorte Dellamore' lacks, it lacks that quintessential Italian charm that even Dario Argento's films have and sometimes suffer from. 'Dellamorte Dellamore' feels more like a New Zealand or British film.
'Dellamorte Dellamore' is unlike any Italian horror I have seen, even Argento's films are not as existential as this, Argento mostly uses nightmare logic or creates purely visual narratives… Italian horror films mostly sacrifice an element of a film, be it the story, production values, acting or script, it is highly rare that an Italian film holds all these elements complete.
But somehow 'Dellamorte Dellamore' does not sacrifice any element; this is a solid movie, complete in every way, almost perfect.
Soavi has been compared to Dario Argento on more than one occasion, but any Italian director with a hint of talent instantly gets compared to Argento, especially if they are dealing with the supernatural, hell even Lucio Fulci gets compared to Argento, this is wrong because each one of these directors have their own style and Michele Soavi showcases his superiority in 'Dellamorte Dellamore', one could argue that 'Dellamorte Dellamore' is better than any one of Argento's films.
No matter how much Argento is considered a master of cinema his films are flawed, and no matter how much I love the man's work I cannot say that any one of his films are perfect, in fact, I do feel most of the time he comes across as pretentious, and without psychoanalyzing a man I have never met, I get this feeling every time watching an Argento film, after all, the man is an artist foremost and filmmaker by chance.
However Soavi's film 'Dellamorte Dellamore' comes across as both entertaining and philosophical as well as being a beautifully well-crafted film with very smooth edges.
Whereas Argento was born into the industry, Soavi worked his way up through the ranks, working with many of the best Italian directors even Argento himself.
Soavi created a style gradually, all his experience accumulating to this one film.
However 'Dellamorte Dellamore' was not Soavi's debut directorial film. No, he had directed previously with 'Stage Fright' (1987) being his debut film, 'The Church' (1989) and 'The Sect' (1991), these films are all worthy additions to the Italian horror genre and show Soavi's progression as competent and passionate film director.
'Dellamorte Dellamore' would be Soavi's last film, he was forced to leave the industry to spend time with his family, and he became a highly respected director of television movies until he made a comeback with the dark and emotional thriller 'The Goodby Kiss' (2006).
Michele Soavi has worked as a Second-Unit-Director for Terry Gilliam on 'The Adventures of Barron Munchausen' (1988) 'The Brothers Grimm' (2005).
Michele Soavi also has had many small acting roles, appearing in dozens of Italian movies such as: 'Demons' (1985), 'A Blade In The Dark' (1983) and 'City of the Living Dead' (1980) as well as many more.
Francesco Dellamorte and Gnaghi (a mute sidekick) are gravedigger and groundskeeper of the Bufallora Cemetery where the dead return once buried.
Francesco job is to dispatch these returners before they escape and terrorise the local town, however things change when he becomes romantically entangled with a beautiful widow who visits her husband's crypt.
After accidentally killing her he is tormented with seeing her face for eternity in other women, blurring his line between reality and fantasy, life and death as well as sanity and insanity.
All the while his friend Franco is stuck in a coma in a hospital bed waiting to either die or go to jail for his heinous crimes.
'Dellamorte Dellamore' has an odd connection to the long-running and hugely popular 1986 comic 'Dylan Dog' created by Taziano Scalavi.
Scalavi based the look of comic's protagonist Dylan Dog on Rupert Everett from the movie 'Another Country' (1984).
The film 'Dellamorte Dellamore' is based on a 1991 novel by Taziano Scalavi, starring Rupert Everett as Francesco Dellamorte a Dylan Dog-esque character.
Michele Soavi's direction as stated above is near perfection, he understands the material keeping the tone light and the pacing fluid, there is never a boring moment, and the film never gets pretentious by taking itself too seriously.
With a clear vision of horror and dark comedy, as well as playing upon classical gothic themes keeping them original and fresh but somehow familiar and relatable without spoofing them, he shows a real talent for this sort of material.
Michele Soavi' shows that one can make a philosophical cryptic movie but at the same time keep it lovably entertaining.
'Dellamorte Dellamore' is a beautiful film with amazing composition and design by cinematographer Mauro Marchetti, who had worked as a camera assistant for Argento on 'Four Flies on Grey Velvet' (1971) and for Francis Ford Coppola on 'Apocalypse Now' (1979), His talent shines in 'Dellamorte Dellamore' as a cinematographer, each shot is designed perfectly, the lighting is clear but gloomy with dark and mysterious undertones.
All of the actors give strong and believable performances, balancing the tightrope of camp to perfection; for the most part, everything is played straight, which was the right decision for this type of film.
Rupert Everett as Francesco Dellamorte is charismatic, sexy and beautifully downplayed and subtle.
Anna Falchi is beautiful and seductive from her first incarnation to her last, giving a rather playful performance as the puzzling love interest of our protagonist.
But for me it was Francois Hadji-Lazaro who steals the show with his masterful portrayal of Gnaghi, Francesco Dellamorte's best friend and coed, he is a lovable brute with the heart of a child and shines becoming just as beautiful as Anna Falchi.
'Dellamorte Dellamore' has high standards, the sets are beautifully gothic and detailed and the film boasts plenty of gore and cool makeup effects.
But the highlight of 'Dellamorte Dellamore' is the truly original story… Yes, the story is cryptic and confusing but overall still engaging and entertaining, for an Italian erotic horror comedy it explores some really existential philosophy about the meaning of life and death, heaven and hell, as well as identity and sanity.
However don’t let that discourage you, 'Dellamorte Dellamore' can still be viewed as a piece of entertainment and is bloody good fun.
I will try and deconstruct some of the most confusing aspects of the film, and give my own take on some of the deeper layers, as a lot of this is analytical most of what may follow is speculative subjective conclusions.
Below contains spoilers so do not read if you wish not to have any of the plot elements ruined for you… skip until END OF SPOILERS
1, Francesco Dellamorte and Franco are the same person.
Francesco Dellamorte represents Franco's dark side the murderer that has taken over his mind, and Gnaghi represents the light, Franco's good side.
Francesco Dellamorte likes it when the weather is gloomy and raining, Gnaghi likes the sunshine.
2, Francesco Dellamorte is obsessed with the dead, he cannot differentiate between life and death, he holds onto old phonebooks collecting the past, as well as still being able to sleep with his zombie girlfriend, he knows that it is wrong but he can never let go of the past.
Gnaghi burning the old phonebooks could also be seen as Franco trying to let go of his past.
3, Franco is said to have killed his wife and children as well as burning the house down, a crime, which Francesco Dellamorte also commits against some prostitutes, and a crime which he is told Franco took responsibility for… In fact, Franco takes responsibility for all of Francesco Dellamorte crimes, solidifying that both Franco and Francesco Dellamorte are the same people.
4, Franco's hospital room is shrouded in darkness, with no doors or windows, this represents Franco's coma he is trapped inside his own mind.
5, There is an accident in the film which causes the death of a lot of the townspeople, Franco is inevitably trimming the fat away from his delusional coma dream, in the process he is also confronting his dislike of the people in the real world, people which he may be paranoid about, or caused him harm.
Franco killed his prostitute lover, why did he do this?
Was it because the people in the town knew about his adulterous tendencies? Or because he was ashamed of his double life and afraid his family would find out, or maybe he could not deal with the fact she had many other lovers and did not love him the way he loved her, I personally believe it to be a mixture of all three.
6, The reason he sees the woman he loved likeness in other woman is because in his mind he can never let go of her… we never are shown his wife or children because they were unimportant to him… they never return as zombies because he wants to forget about their existence.
7, whenever Francesco Dellamorte is on the phone with Franco the returners come, this is his guilt surfacing.
8, Francesco Dellamorte wants to chop off his penis because that was the route of all of his problems, he is blaming his penis for created the mess he is in now… Because he cheated on his wife with a prostitute that he fell in love with, he is trying to take away his lust physically.
9, Franco denies his friendship with Francesco Dellamorte, Franco denies his dark side, so Francesco Dellamorte decides to leave town with Gnaghi, perhaps feeling free from the body that encapsulates him.
10, Death tells him in the graveyard “Where do you think you're going if you haven’t yet realised the difference between life and me?” Francesco Dellamorte tries to leave town and death behind him, but this is impossible as Francesco Dellamorte is a part of Franco.
11, After they pass a tunnel the road is cut off, below a river and the town which he had just escaped from, this symbolises the afterlife, Gnaghi's coffin falling over the edge into the water reinforces this.
Francesco Dellamorte realises there is now no escape from the greatest mystery of all, death.
12, Now Francesco Dellamorte is about to commit suicide after shooting the believed to be dead Gnaghi. However Gnaghi awakens taking the gun off of his friend, Gnaghi doesn’t want to die because death isn’t a mystery to him anymore.
Gnaghi speaks fluently for the first time in the movie, and Francesco Dellamorte is left mumbling, the good side has finally taken over from the dark of Franco's mind.
13, Francesco Dellamorte and Gnaghi's positions within the snow globe have switched, Franco has finally figured out his demons and is now free.
END OF SPOILERS
Overall 'Dellamorte Dellamore' is a deep and majestic horror comedy, unlike anything I have ever seen before.
This is a really unique film and a truly underrated classic that has aged extremely well taking into consideration that it was made in the 90's and is an Italian film.
Truly one of the best horror comedies ever made, I give 'Dellamorte Dellamore' A.K.A. 'Cemetery Man' a solid 5 out of 5 stars…
This is a must see film for everybody.