To understand a person’s fetish, my guess is that you would have to share that fetish. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to get close to Sandra Larson, the necrophiliac at the center of ‘Kissed’, a bold film by Canadian director Lynn Stopkewich that walks a very fine line to avoid making the film exploitative or ridiculous. She could have made the worst film of the year but her frankness and restraint keep the viewer fascinated but not repelled.
The center of the film is Sandra who from childhood has had a fascination with death. She describes one summer with her friend when they would find dead animals and have funerals for them. At nightfall she would perform the strange ritual of shrouding the body and then rubbing it on her skin which she calls ‘anointing’.
As a young woman (played by Molly Parker) working in a flower shop she is overjoyed when she is allowed to make a delivery to the local funeral home and soon she is working there. When she touches the bodies we don’t sense a sick fascination but a passage, a transcendence which she calls ‘crossing over’. When she touches the bodies there is a heavenly light, accompanied by an angelic chorus. This could have been done in very poor taste but we understand from the intensity in Parker’s performance that there is something very serious going on, something about setting them free, ‘Each of them has its own wisdom, innocence, happiness, grief. I see it’ While in college she meets a man who, oddly enough, is fascinated by what she is doing. ‘Why would you want to be an embalmer?’ he asks her on their first meeting. ‘Because of the bodies, I make love to them’ she says without missing a beat. He is interested in her attraction but doesn’t understand the emotional bond. He grows jealous of her attraction to the dead and is willing to do anything to gain her affections.
The scenes in which she performs her rituals are done with extreme restraint. Stopkewich uses her camera to suggest what Sandra is doing but then pulls back so that he have only the idea. The movie is never interested in the mechanics of Sandra’s sexuality but more in its spiritual nature.