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Post Mortem

Year: 1999
Language: French
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 92 min
Director: Louis Bélanger
Producer: Lorraine Dufour
Writer: Louis Bélanger
Cinematographer: Jean-Pierre St-Louis
Editor: Lorraine Dufour
Sound: Marcel Chouinard
Music: Guy Bélanger, Steve Hill
Cast: Hélène Loiselle, Gabriel Arcand, Pierre Collin, Sylvie Moreau, Sarah Lecompte-Bergeron, Ghislain Taschereau
Production Company: La Coopérative Vidéoscopique de Montréal

A devoted single mother dedicated to providing the best for her five-year-old daughter, Linda (Sylvie Moreau) scrimps and saves and collects social security from the government. She is also a ruthless thief who lures men into hotel rooms, knocks them out and grabs their wallets. One night, Linda encounters an American tourist who gets wise to her game and resists, killing her during the struggle. Police suspect her murderer is a lonely morgue attendant named Ghislain (Gabriel Arcand) who was on shift the night Linda’s body was brought in. Through a cleverly elliptical narrative structure, we witness Ghislain, a middle-aged man struggling to hold on to his dignity, falling in love with Linda and saving her life in the process.

This urban fable about karma, irony, fate and the quivering line between life and death is Quebec’s most striking feature film debut since Yves Simoneau’s Pouvoir intime (1986). Director and screenwriter Louis Bélanger imbues Post Mortem with a pervasive air of dread and skilfully makes audiences think they are one step ahead of the narrative when they are actually lagging behind. Part psychological thriller, part tone poem, the film’s intense emotions and unconventional narrative are reminiscent of the work of late Quebec filmmaker Jean-Claude Lauzon (Un zoo la nuit, 1987, Léolo, 1992).

To ensure the drama is always believable, Bélanger maintains a realistic and humanistic approach to his material and draws fearless performances from his two leads. At once strong and vulnerable, Sylvie Moreau crafts a portrait of a woman perilously pushing the envelope, while Gabriel Arcand delivers a finely-tuned, near-silent portrayal of a man clinging to the last shreds of his sanity.

Post Mortem was a surprisingly strong contender at the Genie Awards, where it earned six nominations and won honours for Lead Actress (Moreau) and Original Screenplay (Bélanger), along with the Claude Jutra Award for Best First Feature (Bélanger). It also garnered four Jutra Awards for Lead Actor (Arcand), Film Editing (Lorraine Dufour), Original Screenplay and Best Film (Dufour).

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