Anyone who has ever buried a beloved pet in a top-of-the-line shoe box or even flushed an ex-goldfish down the toilet can appreciate the fascination with death that suffuses Kissed. Canadian filmmaker Lynne Stopkewich’s artily provocative film (the subject matter caused a stir when the work debuted at last year’s Toronto Film Festival), from a short story by Canadian writer Barbara Gowdy, brings to life an attractive, if socially challenged, young woman who spends most of the movie trying to convey her passion for necrophilia. One try: ”It’s like looking into the sun without going blind.” Another: ”Like diving into a lake: sudden cold, then silence.” None of this, however, explains why the morbid heroine would rather get off on a stiff than get it on with a hot-blooded human. Or, given the tasteful depiction of the sexy stuff, how she does it.
Sandra (an earnest Molly Parker, who played Glenn Close’s daughter in Serving in Silence), the body snatcher in question, grows up a somber, imaginative girl, thrilled by rituals, ceremonies, and secrets. What girl isn’t? But this girl is also fascinated by the corpses of dead animals — ”the feel of it, smell of it, and the stillness,” she murmurs, in lulling voice-over. And as she matures, the attraction becomes a craving that draws Sandra to apprentice in a funeral home, where she acts on her passion by caressing, kissing, and eventually mounting a dead guy. ”Crossing over,” as the mortuary student calls her jones for the dear departed, ”was glorious and overwhelming. It was absolutely addictive.”
If she says so. Kissed has a dreamy, feminine feeling to it; the magic circles of little girls lost in their own pink worlds are especially tenderly drawn, with luscious close-ups that linger on the texture of skin, feathers, and fur. But when the college-age heroine meets Matt (Cool Runnings‘ Peter Outerbridge), a medical student who falls in love with her, keeps her intimate secret, and is even excited by it, Stopkewich loses control of the film’s interesting energy just as the sexual vibes become more pronounced; Sandra runs from Matt to mortuary and back again, Matt becomes more desperate to participate in his girlfriend’s secret life — and the movie gives up on keeping pace with its own kinky premise, falling back on a bunch of poetry about light and energy. Kissed doesn’t exactly go belly-up. But it lies there, deathly pale. C+