Faces of Death
“We’re all going to die,” sings the band Knorkator in one of their most beautiful songs. It cannot be denied that they’re right. Death is a circumstance that most are aware of, but which few pay attention to. Not so with Jan Soldat: this prolific filmmaker of human images has recently set his sights on Exitus, with a new strand of creativity that was heralded in Cannes in 2022 by his compilation film Staging Death.
Faces of Death is the title of the fourth installment in this series. After previous films devoted to Udo Kier, Nicolas Cage, and Lance Henriksen, we watch British character actor Christopher Lee – who actually did die in 2015 – experience multiple, recurring, generally violent TV and cinema deaths. In just seven minutes, cleverly condensed by montage, nearly seventy brilliant career years pass, full of format changes and unforgettable roles from Dracula to Saruman. Lee, a record holder among the predominantly male mortal victims in film history, presents his very own style of passing away, which isn’t campy, flamboyant or lusciously grotesque like Kier or Vincent Price. Instead, Lee’s demise is played comparatively straight – deadly serious and full of pathos, often highly dramatic and spectacular, and only rarely funny and cool.
Because Lee played so many “bad guys”, numerous deaths seem like merciless punishment. And regardless of whether he is stabbed, shot, burned or buried: anger, pain, exhaustion, and disappointment are usually written all over his face (perhaps something to do with his military service in World War II?). Screams and fateful musical thunder accentuate the grim expressions of these Faces of Death. Nevertheless, they are far more enjoyable to watch than the infamous mondo classic whose fascination with death is alluded to in Soldat’s film title. (Andrey Arnold)
Translation: John Wojtowicz
Faces of Death