Underground Film Journal

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Short Film: Carlos Atanes’ The Metamorphosis

By Mike Everleth ⋅ June 8, 2008

Embedded above is an older (1993) short film by Spanish filmmaker Carlos Atanes, whose work I’ve had the pleasure of being introduced to this year. The Metamorphosis is an adaptation, of course, on the classic novella by Franz Kafka. It’s a bit on the longer side as far as online videos go. It runs just short of 30 minutes, but I recommend checking it out. I’m a big fan of Carlos’ films and this one, despite the low YouTube video quality and the spotty English subtitles, is up there with his other movies.

I’ve actually never read The Metamorphosis, so I don’t know how faithful an adaptation it is, but Carlos updates the action to WWII and gives the film a slight Nazi under current. Despite Gregor Samsa’s unfortunate condition, by placing the action during the early days of the war, one has to wonder if he’s not better off by having this happen to him rather than being hauled off to a concentration camp.

Half-man, half-cockroach monster

Like Carlos’ other films, I really like the look of this one. I particularly enjoyed the half-cockroach costume worn by actor Antonio Vladimir as Gregor. He doesn’t transform into a full insect. He’s more kind of like Jeff Goldblum during the first couple of scenes of his transformation in Cronenberg’s The Fly. The make-up and prosthetics are obviously more low-budget here, but Gregor’s bug half is suitably slimy enough and confined to shadows and odd angles to be effectively grotesque.

Also, I’m not quite sure what it is, but Carlos has a real knack for choosing great locations. Instead of a bedroom, Gregor’s main hangout is an immense library with extremely narrow aisles between the crammed stacks that reach way up to the high ceilings. There’s also a nice scene taking place on the building’s roof. There’s a real old world European feel to the building that I find appealing and that I feel enhances the horror movie-like vibe Carlos casts on the material.

For more on Carlos’ films, please read the Underground Film Journal’s reviews of his three DVDs: Codex Atanicus, a collection of three short films; and the two features FAQ. (Frequently Asked Questions) and Proxima. Codex, FAQ  and Proxima are all available on Amazon if you click those links. And please visit out Carlos’ official website.