Once upon a time, when the fascists still controlled Spain, there was a man named Marcos (Vincent Parra) who lived in a tiny house that appeared to be sitting in the middle of trash dump. Marcos worked at a slaughterhouse and had a loving girlfriend named Paula (Emma Cohen). Marcos wasn’t a mean person but he did have a temper. Because he was poor and unedcuated, he was permanently on the outside of Spanish society.
One night, Marcos was out on a date with Paula when he got into an argument with a taxicab driver. The argument escalated until Marcos finally (and accidentally) killed the man. Paula thought that they should go to the police. Marcos disagreed. Eventually, to cover up his crime, Marcos strangled Paula in his tiny house.
Then, Marcos’s brother came by and discovered what had happened. So, Marcos killed him too. Then his brother’s fiancée came by and insisted on knowing what Marcos was hiding in the bedroom so Marcos killed her. Then his brother’s fiancee’s father showed up at the house and started asking too many questions so Marcos killed him.
And soon, Marcos’s house was full of dead people.
Towering over Marcos’s house was an apartment building. Living alone on the 13th floor was the handsome Nestor (Eusebio Poncela). Nestor use to spend his days watching Marcos through a pair of binoculars. Though he never knew what was happening in the house, Nestor still became fascinated with Marcos and his refusal to move out of his crummy house.
Eventually, Nestor befriended Marcos. Though Nestor was wealthy, his status as a gay man in 1970s Spain made him as much of an outsider as Marcos. Both Nestor and Marcos had reason to distrust and fear the police and this created a bond. With Nestor’s help, Marcos got a hint of the life that he could have been living if 1) he hadn’t been born poor, 2) he didn’t live in the middle of a garbage dump, and 3) if his house wasn’t full of dead bodies….
In the late 60s and early 70s, European art films were often disguised as being exploitation films when they were released in the United States. That’s certainly the case with this Spanish film from 1972. The original Spanish title of this film was La semana del asesino. In English, that translates to The Week of the Killer, an appropriate title since the film follows a week in the life of Marcos. However, when the film was released in the U.S., it was retitled Cannibal Man, despite the fact that there’s not any cannibalism to be found in the film.
Regardless of what it’s called, the film itself is a surprisingly sensitive and well-done portrait of two outsiders trying to survive and find some sort of happiness under an authoritarian regime. For all the murders that take place, the film itself is far more concerned with the friendship between Nestor and Marcos. When Nestor takes Marcos to his health club and they share a dip in the pool, it’s a rare chance for both Nestor and Marcos to escape their problems. It’s a nicely done scene, one that’s directed in such a way that you understand that this is one of the few times in Marcos’s life when he hasn’t been angry or scared. Even he’s not sure how to handle it.
Director Eloy de Iglesia combines scenes that have a gritty, documentary feel to them with sequences that seem almost dream-like. When Marcos kills his brother’s fiancee, the sound of the clock ticking in his house becomes almost deafening. Vincent Parra plays Marcos as being an inarticulate man who often seems to be in a daze, as if not even he can believe what he’s done and what his life has become. Eusebio Poncela is equally well-cast as the sympathetic Nestor.
Cannibal Man is a film that definitely deserves to be rediscovered.