The day I fell in love with the poetic masterpiece of cinema, “Dellamorte Dellamore” (“The Cemetery Man”), a movie that inspired me to become a filmmaker
The snow fell gently from the ominous dark grey sky on that specific Sunday afternoon. I can recall the weather, the smell of the food my Mother was cooking and nearly every other exact detail of that day, because it was a day that would happen to change the entire way I viewed horror films.
At fifteen years old, I had already seen what I believed to be every single horror VHS on the shelf of my local video store “Show Video”. The dusty sun-faded boxes of films which had either never had been rented before or at least not in the last ten years were like gold to me. My VCR was becoming obese due to overconsumption of terror, sleaze, filth, exploitation, gore and everything else in between.
Because some of these tapes were in such bad condition, I can’t recall certain films such as “Slaughterhouse”, “Three on a Meathook” or “Midnight” without severe tracking issues – but to me, that is the charm. If I was to view any of those or other in Blu-Ray format, I strongly believe that I would be doing a serious injustice to both my nostalgia and perhaps to the film itself.
So on that gloomy snowy afternoon, gearing up for a much anticipated snow-day from school, I walked on down to “Show Video” and discovered a film that I somehow had managed to overlook, which is ironic, as not only was it the final worthwhile film on that shelf that I hadn’t rented, but it was soon to become my all-time favorite piece of cinema ever.
Upon viewing the first ten seconds of “Dellamorte Dellamore” or as it is called in the states “Cemetery Man”, I instantly knew I had finally, and unquestionably discovered a film that was set to change my life.
Now I understand that may sound a bit drastic to many, but if it wasn’t for that specific gem of a film, I sincerely believe that I wouldn’t have decided to become a horror filmmaker who just spent nearly two years completing his latest feature which pays as much homage to it as a film can pay.
Yes folks, “Dellamorte Dellamore” means that much to me and it should to you as well. Here’s why…
Film is a poetic medium when accomplished correctly. Dialogue comes through like lyrics to a powerful song when expertly written and has the ability to bring an audience to tears. With great writing, the film can generate an emotion from the audience that perhaps they had no intention or expectation of feeling upon viewing.
The dialogue in “Dellamorte Dellamore” is an epic poem written by a master poet.
Filled to the brim with not-so-subtle political jabs, extremely clever wit, brutally honest nihilistic overtones, deep dark soliloquies that make Travis Bickle seem sane, the structural pattern of the writing weaves itself in and around the film like a perfectly knit tapestry of loneliness, despair and utter darkness.
The sexual nature of the film is also something which is extremely striking and hauntingly beautiful. Even though we are viewing two characters making love upon the grave of a recently deceased Gentleman, it still somehow maintains dare-I-say an erotic normalcy, which only a master such is that of Michele Soavi can accomplish.
The characters are selfish, miserable, hateful and deviant, yet we can help but immediately fall in love with them and maintain that love throughout the entire course of the film.
I nearly find myself in tears when Gnagi, the goofy Cemetery assistant, finds himself terribly in love with the head (Yes, just the head) of a girl recently killed in a motorcycle accident. I find myself most certainly in tears when that living head, which speaks and sings for Ghagi, making her home in his broken TV screen, is finally killed once and for all, obviously causing him intense heartache. Poor little guy!
And when our gloriously nihilistic main character Fracesco Dellamorte played in almost a shakespearian manner by Rupert Everett, decides that he wants to have his cock removed after his dream girl doesn’t fall in love with him, there is almost a demented yet heartbreaking realism to it in the most extreme manner. Just by writing such scenarios, I can sense the reader, squinting with concern of my mental health and well-being, but I just have to be honest.
And then there is Anna Falchi, who upon seeing her for the very first split-second, wiped away my crushes on any other female that I held for my entire life up to that point. The Mona Lisa of cinema, her beauty is as radiant as I have ever laid my eyes upon. I guess that makes it a lot easier for the viewer to feel the absolute heartache and pain of Dellamorte himself when “She”, as she is actually credited as, refuses to love him back.
In each one of the three characters she plays, she brings a haunting idiosyncratic element to each one, filling the screen with mystery, suspicion and deceit. Her eyes emanate a nightmarish glow suitable for a Noir thriller like a Panther on the prawl. Oh how I wish I was to be that prey!
In one specific scene which haunts my senses and breaks my heart every time I re-watch it, Francesco and “She” share the flickering fire of his lighter to ignite their cigarettes. Drunk and depressed, Dellamorte utters, “I want you to fall in love with me” to which she gently responds with a tiny smirk and deep stare, “But I’m already in love with you, haven’t you noticed?”, only for us to soon find out she’s simply a prostitute speaking only the words she knows her potential client wants to hear.
There is power within that moment which I hadn’t yet seen in the genre of horror cinema up until that point and it has stuck with me since. How many times have our heartstrings been through hellish turmoil upon the realization that our love doesn’t love us back? That feeling is captured so eloquently in said scene and still causes me heartache even upon thinking about it.
“Dellamorte Dellamore” was there for me so many times when my lovers were not.
Though it’s probably not a film you should watch if you just went through a harsh break-up, Francesco’s views on his life may make more sense to during such times. I recall dressing up as him on many occasions during my Junior year of high school to the shock and awe of my friends and fellow students. I dreamt of living in a graveyard and even at one point applied to work at the one by my Parent’s home, only to be rejected. They most likely thought I was some kind of little ghoul. The idea of how ludicrous all this must sound to a “normal” person only makes me smile more.
The soundtrack is something so whimsical, catchy and structured with such dramatic dips and highs that I find myself occasionally humming it to myself while walking or traveling — a beautiful soundtrack to have forever embedded in your brain.
You can probably imagine my Kinski-esque rage at the dinner table when a Cinematographer who was working on a film of mine expressed a deep dislike for the film when the topic was inevitably brought up by me. We never worked together again after that. The tomato sauce stain still remains on the walls of the kitchen, where my plate of lasagna was tossed across the room in a fit of madness. How could they not see the poetic beauty of the film?! I certainly can’t be the only one!
Just like Dellamorte in the film who feels alone and out of touch with the rest of society, perhaps I am simply channeling his feelings — though obviously I have no psychopathic murderous thoughts that goes with the job of being a zombie-killing love-sick cemetery caretaker in Buffalora living in a shack with a mute who is romantically involved with a talking head.
Though most likely offensive to many, the pitch black sense of humor that resides within the film suits me perfectly.
I still can’t help but crack a smile at the reaction of the Cop, who upon expressing his grievance to for all of the people who died in a massive car/motorcycle accident, chuckles when Dellamorte jokes that while they must have thought that their lives were ahead of them, their lives were actually already behind and gone. In any other film, this shocking reaction of the character would be disgusting, but in “Dellamorte Dellamore” it is just as beautifully fitting as everything else within the movie.
Being based of a series of comics entitled “Dylan Dog”, Soavi managed to transfer that feeling into the realm of cinema and for that I will be forever grateful to the man.
I hold the memory of that specific snowy afternoon almost in such high regards as the day I met one of my best friends, fell in love and other milestones in my life. It is a film riddled with metaphors, some subtle and some obvious, yet it never becomes cliche or worn out. The clever word-play title roughly translates to “Of Death, of Love” and it is a film that, in my view may encompass some of the most iconic scenes regarding both themes.
It is a film that should have received a lot more attention that it had and is a shame that not more people know about it.
It is a film that is so much more than just a horror film — a film that holds more heart in every frame then so many others — and expresses emotions and moods in which we all have gone through or had, as scary as they may be, without an fear of exposing them to the general public. A poetic masterpiece of cinema that describes heartbreak, despair and nihilism just as well as some of the greatest novelists have put to paper.
Whereas everything outside the cemetery is dead, the on-goings inside are very much alive, filled with a vibrance that is all-together terrifying, mystifying, romantic, hilarious, sexual and glorious as hell.
When the film comes to it’s conclusion, we witness our two main characters Dellamorte and Gnagi residing within the bubble of a snow globe, and it was just then that I happened to look out the window and realize that the entire ground was covered and the snow was now coming down heavier than before.
When it became obvious that I was never to return that VHS to “Show Video”, a copy that remains in a coveted position within my vast VHS collection beside a painting of the film which I had commissioned, I knew I had to make my case. The next day, inevitably a snow day, I marched through the snow and broke the news to the owner that I was going to keep the copy.
She appeared stunned by my confidence, as I was a typically anxious fifteen year old, but when I explained to her how much the film meant to me and didn’t have any money to buy it, she smiled and much to my surprise agreed that I should be the owner.
A gift that keeps on giving with each re-watch.