Documentary Film Review: Obesity: The Post Mortem

57d7fb211800006c32bd1154Director: Melanie Archer

Narrator: Vinette Robinson

Verdict: You’ll never want to eat again

First off, sorry this review took so long to get to you, new student life is busy as fuck. 

Ok so unsurprisingly this doc was recommended to me by a medical student, the really wonderful, JUST A SHARP SCRATCH, who’s also new to this site and really deserving of followers for her fantastic blog. This review is on BBC IPlayer and you won’t find it IMDb (I tried), so see it whilst you can. 

This documentary explores the effects of obesity on the inside of the body via an autopsy of a women who died of heart failure, a disease linked to obesity, and who donated her body to medical science. Now that this film’s sunken in I can look back at the 3 inch sheet of yellow blubber that surrounded this woman and the look as our pathologist flippantly cut into it with something approaching levity. However at the time it does satisfy that sense of visceral thrill that comes with, let’s say, the infamous lawnmower scene in Peter Jackson’s Braindead !. At the same time though, it’s also not like that, and to approach the film with that mind set I think would be something approaching morally wrong. It’s truly horrific to see this happen because it’s an actual person, but also you’re looking at what a real person had done to herself, and it’s horrible. Her insides looked like one of the surreal horror apparitions conjured up by Terry Brain out of play dough for The Trap Door. There’s a scene where the consultant pathologist shows us the fluid build up in her lungs due to the heart failure and it reminded me of The Evil Dead‘s light-bulbs filling up with blood it was disgusting. This does subside after a while as you get used to it and that’s good because it means you can focus on what’s being told to you, and it’s genuinely interesting, informative, and shocking. It does make you very conscious of the fat you’re carrying though. I think I’ll start exercising more.

From a film making perspective it is deceptively well made. At the start is does have the feeling of a made for television documentary, and not so much in the good way, more that it’s just kind of basic and candid, where as many cinematic docs make an effort to give some kind of filmic spark. However I think this was intentional as you don’t want your attention drawn to the film-making in a documentary like this, and it’s made so that your eyes are drawn to the important things via the colour palate. You do end up getting some stylistic flourishes with the candid interviews with people who consider themselves obese, which we get between phases of the autopsy. These are very interesting too, the documentary professes to be showing you the internal damage of obesity, that’s their selling point, but the interviews how you the internal damage to the psyche, the emotional damage. The interviewees are well chosen and genuinely fun to spend time with. One complaint it that the tonal differences between these dual strands of the doc can take you out of the moment somewhat, but that’s very minor. Very satisfying hour long documentary, get it while it’s still there!

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