The Montreal World Film Festival kicked off this past Thursday evening and it is a chance to see cinema from all the corners of this globe. I started off my MWFF experience with a Bulgarian (don’t know if I have ever seen a Bulgarian film before) picture called Corpse Collector. Now, with a title like that you might be thinking that the film seemed well suited for the Fantasia film festival which caters to genre films, but you would be wrong. This is a case of don’t judge a book by its cover or a film by its title. It sounds like a creepy film rather it is a slice of life film that really has very little to do with corpse collecting and more to do with romance and comedy than blood, guts and death.
Corpse Collector is the debut film by director Dimitar Dimitrov and you could tell at certain points of his almost two hour film that he is a filmmaker still trying to find his voice. Certain parts were very well conceived of and shot while others were overly long and not developed enough. There was some fat to be trimmed here though not so much excess that it turned you off.
There are moments of dark comedy as well as some of serious drama. It is hard to keep things flowing and the story on its rails when one moment you are laughing at a driver for the morgue stealing stuff from a dead girl’s body then the next you are feeling horrible for the guy as his young daughter has just come home bloodied and frightened after being beaten and raped. It takes a delicate touch to keep all these balls in the air, but Dimitrov demonstrates himself mostly up to the tall task.
Itzo (Stoyan Radev) and Avera (Stefan Shterev – The Legend of Hercules, Killing Season) work as drivers for the morgue and their job is to collect the bodies of dead people once the police are done with them. A recently divorced woman named Mimi (Lydia Indjova) who works at the morgue keeps hinting to Itzo that she likes him, but he ably sidesteps her time and time again. His heart belongs to a woman he met recently by pure accident when he got out of the morgue van to help her park her car.
Katya (Teodora Duhovnikova – Conan the Barbarian – 2011) is a rather attractive but cruel woman who is the sometimes girlfriend of a gangster named Rocco (Mihail Bilalov). Itzo has fallen for her almost at first glance and fallen hard. This is the first time in his life that the quiet man is in love. She knows it and does not feel the same about him. This does not stop her from using him for any little or big thing she needs like selling her two cars, building her an indoor bathroom or unblocking her sink.
Despite the horrible treatment he receives from Katya, Itzo continues to love her and follows her around like a puppy dog. He even sticks around after he finds out she is still seeing Rocco. Itzo is at a loss; he doesn’t know where to go next in his life, which has very quickly become very complex. Soon Itzo is doing things he never would have thought and finding himself in the middle of moral conundrums.
The movement between genres like horror, comedy and romance is deftly done and at the same time you get plenty of character development. For instance, it is divulged after Itzo and Katya have sex that he is probably attracted to her despite the ill treatment because his mother, who is the only other woman he loved, treated him horribly. It is a film about the simple and seemingly mundane being very complex. Going through all this allows Itzo to rid himself of some demons he has carried around for his whole life and opened him up to accepting real love.