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  • Writer's pictureJack Salvadori

Cannes #77 - "The Shrouds" Review

Updated: Jun 3

What is Vincent Cassel doing in a David Cronenberg costume?

Perhaps The Shrouds is so personal to the cult director that its protagonist, Karsh, funeral impresario and founder of GraveTech, is meant to be Cronenberg’s doppelgänger.


Karsh not only shares Cronenberg’s look, but also his macabre, dark obsessions. Admittedly, his religion is Technology, and his high-tech cemetery offers the feature to install screens on the gravestones to witness the live decay of the decomposing bodies. But at GraveTech, “everything is encrypted, pun intended”, and the ultramodern system is hacked by mysterious opponents, breaking the last physical connection between Karsh and his deceased wife, played by Diane Kruger.

The director’s interest in extravagantly grim sexual deviances is well known, spanning from car crashes to cancer surgery, and thus it was only a matter of time before he would cast his horny eye upon necrophilia. But the sexual pleasure that Karsh seeks from the dead is much rather voyeuristic, as he finds excitement only by examining the rotting corpses without the need to have intercourse with them. The cadavers are wrapped into the titular shrouds, fashionably designed by Saint Laurent, who serve as 3D scanners and allowing the users to zoom in and out the grotesque details as they please, penetrating the deceaseds’ intimacy only through their gaze. This urge to spectate the horror, the visceral curiosity to stare at something traumatising when on display, is a perversion that mirrors us, the cinema goers, attracted by a cinema that confronts us with our inner fears, in the hope to overcome them.


Yet, this system is also a way to cheat the perpetuity of death, finding a way to keep track on the departed and refusing to let them go. If you know what’s in the darkness, it’s not that scary anymore.

Unfortunately this concept only serves as a starting point for the convoluted plot, rich in exposition in an attempt to explain the dynamics of GraveTech and eventually lost in wacky conspiracy theories and a lame critic of AI. Now 81, Cronenberg seems to have lost his touch, and the body horror that made him a contradistinguished name in the 80s is not enough to impress today’s audiences.


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