Nastro d’Argento award-nominated black comedy Put Grandma in the Freezer (Metti la nonna in freezer, 2018), codirected by Giancarlo Fontana and Giuseppe G. Stasi, is one of the highlights in this year’s Lavazza Film Festival.
The film displays all the attributes required to make it a commercial and audience success: a sleek and impressive cinematography with an immediately captivating opening credits scene that is as stylish as any Bond movie (Valerio Azzali has done a terrific job experimenting with different cinematic angles and perspectives, with his high-angle shots and dissolves the most impactful and impressive), regular close-ups Almodóvar style, stark colour schemes, a dynamic plot, quick, witty and engaging dialogues, constant absurd and farcical moments that spice up the script effectively played out on screen, and references to current politics – with a brief yet telling commentary on Trump which firmly inserts the narrative into our fragmented and unpredictable present. Focusing on two characters, in particular, who become an unlikely duo driving the story on, Put Grandma in the Freezer additionally contains a number of secondary characters also conducive to the plot development. Still, the real protagonist in this highly entertaining movie, is – as the title suggests – a dead woman, Nonna Brigit, her body at least temporarily hidden in a freezer by her granddaughter Claudia (Miriam Leone) who keeps cashing in incoming retirement checks, thereby managing to fool the system and to herself stay alive after the system itself has stuffed her around by delaying payment for one of her recent government projects.
The female corpse glistening by ice is removed from the freezer at appropriate times, plonked down next to characters that are all the more alive and kicking, and put on full display; allowing for the dead to physically accompany the living (Claudia’s staff are accomplices to the crime and receive their share of the retirement money). When tax police officer or “guardia di finanza” Simone Recchia (Fabio de Luigi) starts smelling a rat – when he enters Claudia’s home the semi-thawed corpse leaves behind a trail of water that reveals the real situation, the freezer leaks suspiciously, etc. – there is mounting visual evidence against the women and their collective fraud yet a clever twist in the plot changes the narrative development. Put Grandma in the Freezer apparently draws specific inspiration from Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver (2006), which similarly revolves around a corpse stuffed into a freezer (in this film an abusive husband is effectively killed off by his wife armed with a kitchen knife, in one of the very opening scenes of the movie whereby the dead body becomes a silent witness to the absurd turn of events to come – from inside the freezer). Inspired also by Almodovarean pastiche by the look of it, Put Grandma in the Freezer, too, draws from different genres, ranging from thriller to melodrama, farce and black comedy. The story is a cocktail containing regular elements of suspense, an odd and rather unexpected love story between the female lead character and the – at least initially – easily seduced tax agent, and a number of clever twists and turns that keep us entertained from beginning to end. The final scene opening up to further financial opportunities for the protagonists, this comedy is sure to give Melbourne audiences their money’s worth.