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Mortaja

Antonio Perumanes


Death is a recurrent theme in Perumanes’ oeuvre. On this occasion, the process of wrapping a cadaver in a shroud is the starting point for the narration of different stages in this person’s life. In Mortaja Perumanes discards the use of visual elements of a metaphoric and allegorical character, which come up in other works of his, and instead composes a tableau vivant with narrative as its most important characteristic.

From its start the video shows all the stages of the shrouding process, actions that take place in an almost ceremonious fashion. The first shot is that of the dead woman lying on a marble table. Two women on each side of the table start to wash her. Then they cover her, first with a kind of dress, and then they wrap her in the shroud. All the movements are followed with great precision by the camera, combining general shots with close-up shots. The action seems to be recorded in real time and with hardly any editing.

Whilst the image carefully describes the shrouding process, the voice over narrates different episodes of someone’s life. The spectator quickly associates the narration with the life of the dead woman shown on screen. The narration is always in the past tense and incorporates different aspects of oral tradition, such as the repetition of certain sentences, the mode of address, always directed towards an interlocutor, etc. In the same way that the image combines general with close-up shots, the narration of the voice over mixes elements of the collective history with those of a more personal character. The experience of food rationing during the postwar period is put together with facts about the price of an ounce of chocolate or with the description of a specific street. The living tale of the voice over, with events that succeed each other in a clear albeit non-chronological manner, stands in stark contrast to the ritualistic, almost hypnotic, character of the image.

Technical datasheet

  • Title: Mortaja
  • Direction: Antonio Perumanes
  • Production: Antonio Perumanes. 1995.
  • Duration: 00:10:00
  • Languages: English - Spanish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Formats: Betacam Digital - DVD
  • TV systems: PAL
  • License: Copyright