Portrait of a Corpse

Portrait of a Corpse follows the body of a recently deceased young girl.

Her body travels from her bed to the hospital; receives a bumpy ride along the way to the mortician’s table before making it to the funeral home.

Once there, she takes residence amongst her closest companions … the dead.

Creative team

Writer/director/producer: William Stewart

Director’s statement

Director William Stewart says:

“On a very cold day in February 2009, Portrait of a Corpse came to life as a film project for Dr. Yuri Leving’s Russian film class at Dalhousie University as an exercise into appreciating the visual style and concepts of early cinema.

The idea for this film came out of some rather morbid musings about death, funerals, and where our bodies go when we die.

Various religions offer us reassuring thoughts of a spiritual afterlife but unfortunately there is nothing reassuring when it comes to the empty shells we leave behind.

Indeed, long before our bodies arrive to our own funeral, someone must first transport our empty carcasses to the hospital, then to a mortician where it is handled (hopefully with clean hands), stripped naked, disembowelled, stuffed, stitched, and beautified rather grotesquely for display. Luckily, those who are cremated are spared from this ritual.

For me, there is something disturbing yet deliciously witty in a morbid sort of way about this practice and this is something I wanted to show in this film.

The film itself is broken into a series cyclical movements and portrait shots in which we start from the inside of the character with her dying heartbeats to the outside where she is later blessed and stripped.

Afterwards we find ourselves on the outside looking in as her exterior, which our chain-smoking, Eddy Arnold loving mortician prepared so delicately, rots away.  Nothing is left but empty eye sockets and white thread; a faded beauty in the end.

Directing this film was a wonderful experience, especially to make something in the style and tone similar to the Gothic chillers I admire greatly and have a profound respect for and to have worked again with such an obliging actress, talented make-up artist and sympathetic grandmother who allowed us to make a horrendous mess of her living room floor.”

About William Stewart

William-Stewart

A filmmaker from Halifax, Nova Scotia, William is a graduate of the University of King’s College and an admirer of early horror films, particularly those emanating from 1920’s Germany, Universal Studios, and Hammer Film Productions.

While at King’s he studied literature and film and was involved with numerous theatre and film-related projects such as participating in and also co-developing  an independent study class that focused on various cinematic techniques and conventions found in early French cinema.

In 2002, he directed his first short film at the NSI Movie Camp at School program, Where I’m From by Don McKellar, and has directed several other short films since then.

William is currently finishing post-production on his short film Cycle, a black and white Super 8 film about a sexually abused teenage girl, and is also conducting preliminary research for a book about the crime films of Terence Fisher.

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