Thee Autopsy Movie. I’ve had the Brakhage set for over five years and have proclaimed it the single best thing on my DVD shelf, but have never even attempted to watch this particular short before. I assumed it’d be just like Window Water Baby Moving, but using dead bodies instead of Stan’s pregnant wife, which seemed like the worst idea in the world, or at least something guaranteed to make me physically upset upon viewing. But on this particularly slow week in Shocktober, I gave it a go. Fortunately it turned out to be more stylistically tame, less jittery than WWBM, Stan not trying to horrify us, just to filter what he’s seeing through his always intense camera eye. I’m glad this exists, and I’m somewhat glad I saw it, but I might not want to ever see it again.
Engineer Fred, who spent his whole year around prisons (his father worked there), offers to design a better electric chair. He does, it works. Fred proclaims himself an electric chair expert, makes more chairs for other states. Soon he’s got contracts for a gallows, a lethal injection machine, and a gas chamber. Fred proclaims himself an expert at all execution apparatuses. Soon he is asked to join the legal defense team of a holocaust denier and travel to Auschwitz to determine whether there were gas chambers present. Not knowing a goddamned thing about history or chemistry, Fred goes to Auschwitz and looks around, does some severely flawed chemical tests looking for arsenic, and notes that these buildings (in their ruined 1990’s state) don’t even have DOORS! You can’t very well expect to contain poison gas without doors. So Fred decides that since he is an expert at all matters concerning execution, and since he doesn’t see how there could’ve been gas chambers here, the holocaust must’ve not happened. Suddenly nobody wants to be associated with Fred, so he stops getting engineering contracts and instead gets lawsuits and offers to speak at neo-nazi gatherings.
Kind of a sad movie, about death and denial. Morris uses re-enactments to dramatize Fred’s career, provide some visuals to all the interviews… which is fine, but I could’ve done with about ten minutes less slow-motion footage of chiseling bits off walls at Auschwitz. I liked it – Katy did too.