FANTASTIC FEST: Name Above Title (2020)

Known in Portugal as Um Fio de Baba Escarlate (A Scarlet Little Thread), this 59-minute film has no spoken dialogue and tells the story of a serial killer whose latest kill is interrupted when a woman throws herself off a balcony and lands next to him. As he embraces her, she whispers something to him and he gives her a last kiss before she dies.

That act causes his life to be forever changed, as a crowd complete with smartphones has gathered and view that last kiss as an act of kindness delivered to a lost and dying woman. But what were those last words she said to him? And when several push their way to the truth, how will it change the life of our killer?

Make no mistake, this movie borrows the feel and look of the giallo — if not the need for a procedural investigation — to tell the story of the murderer. Yet it has artistic aims — the same actress, Joana Ribeiro, plays all of the victims — and could pretty much be telling us that serial killers are the new saints. The director, Carlos Conceição, said of his film: “In a contemporary sense, the serial killer is just a convention. My interest is not in his murderous impulses but in the fact that society turned him into a kind of superhero.”

In his only second full-length film (he made Serpentarius in 2019), Conceição is making a major statement here. By removing the voice from the film, he’s asking you to determine what you have heard the killer say. That said, the end symbolism may be a little too easy, but by the time you’ve gone on this ride — what movie makes a post-coital killer catching his breath next to his garotte-killed lover look this gorgeous — you may not mind. Consider it an hour-long music video for you to explore.

Name Above Title is playing Fantastic Fest this week. When it starts streaming, we’ll update this article.

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