Post Mortem (2010)

Saint Salvador Allende and historical autopsy

Authored by: Moisés Park

The Routledge Handbook of Death and the Afterlife

Print publication date:  June  2018
Online publication date:  June  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138682160
eBook ISBN: 9781315545349
Adobe ISBN:


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Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s Post Mortem (2010) is a controversial film that includes a mise-en-scène that recreates the 1973 autopsy of deceased president amidst allegations that he was murdered. The concept of an ‘historical autopsy derives from the field of medical thanatology.’ Uruguayan doctors Hugo Rodríguez and Fernando Verdú define ‘historical autopsy’ as ‘research on medical causes and circumstances of a death with historical interest, which is based on the critical, harmonious, hierarchical interpretation, and objectives of the whole of the information provided by documents and testimony, with no direct access to the corpse or the skeletal remains’ (2003: p. 127). An alternative application of ‘historical autopsy’ could reformulate Larraín’s film as it demystifies Allende’s figure through the film. A critical reading based on historical autopsy ultimately heightens the paradox surrounding the president’s body as ideologically sacrilegious and affectively auratic. Experiencing this film could be a historical autopsy that revisits the military opinion that Allende committed suicide. The script contains some ambiguity with respect to the medical findings, although it avoids voicing conspiracy theories in light of the military’s actions. Representing the autopsy of the president evokes a painful past, yet recreates a slice of history that includes the thousands who were arrested, tortured, or who simply disappeared during the dictatorship, in spite of the 2011 report that corroborated Allende’s death as a suicide a year after the release of the film.

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