Kissed (1996)


Canada. 1996.


Director – Lynne Stopkewich, Screenplay – Lynne Stopkewich & Angus Fraser, Based on the Short Story We So Seldom Look on Love by Barbara Gowdy, Producers – Lynne Stopkewich & Dean English, Photography – Gregory Middleton, Music – Don MacDonald, Production Design – Eric McNab. Production Company – Boneyard Film Co/British Columbia Film


Molly Parker (Sandra Larson), Peter Outerbridge (Matt), Jay Brazeau (Mr Wallis), Natasha Morley (Young Sandra), Jessica Winter Mudie (Carol), James Timmons (Jan)


Mortuary assistant Sandra Larson has an erotic fascination with the corpses she tends and makes love to them in secret. Complications begin when she becomes involved for the first time with Matt, a live male who struggles to understand her secret obsession.

A film about necrophilia – as soon as I heard about Kissed, I knew it was one I had to see, both for the sheer perversity of its subject matter and to celebrate it for the conservative ire it managed to raise. The great surprise about Kissed is actually how tastefully it manages to delve into its subject matter. Indeed, of all possible treatments of the theme of necrophilia, it is difficult to conceive of one that manages to so successfully avoid any touch of luridness and to conduct itself with such earnest sincerity. In complete contrast to the likes of Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein (1973) – which revelled in bad taste with its immortal line “To know life you have to fuck death in the gallbladder” – or the taboo-defying sensationalism of Jorg Buttgereit’s NEKRomantik (1987), Kissed instead manages to make necrophilia the subject of a transcendental love story. Rather than any delighting in perversity for the sheer effrontery of bad taste, Kissed goes out of its way to try to convince us that the introverted heroine’s secret obsession is just another alternate and perfectly acceptable means of sexual self-expression. To such wit, the film deliberately avoids any attempt to psychologically explain her necrophile desires – if Kissed were a shock-horror portrait, it would be a film that delves into the heroine’s twisted past and reasons for desiring corpses.

In keeping with its deliberately unmelodramatic presentation, Kissed is surprisingly low key dramatically. It never even develops a story until about a third of the way in. Although when it does, it forms an amusingly sly sense of black humour – like the scenes with boyfriend Peter Outerbridge trying to understand Molly Parker’s obsession. (Although here the plot seems to have been closely modelled on Buttgereit’s NEKRomantik 2 [1991]). Molly Parker, of incredibly watery looks, gives a fine performance of strength and depth. One can see she is clearly an actress with potential – as she proved the year following this in the stunning tv adaptation of Dean R. Koontz’s Intensity (1997) and later in tv’s Deadwood (2004-6).

The necrophile subject matter naturally made Kissed a difficult sell in the US market. After playing some festivals, the film was eventually released to video in 1999. However, there all the scenes that even suggested Molly Parker was naked in the vicinity of the corpses ended up being cut out.

Lynne Stopkewich and Molly Parker later reteamed for Suspicious River (2000), a similar sexually troubled film in which Parker plays a small-town married woman who leads a secret life as a prostitute. Since the 2000s, Stopkewich has only directed for television. Her one other film of interest is as producer of Control Alt Delete (2008) about a man who develops a fetish with having sex with computers.

(Nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay at this site’s Best of 1996 Awards).

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