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The Embalmer (2002)

L'imbalsamatore (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, Romance | 6 September 2002 (Italy)
A solitary embalmer meets a charming and unemployed waiter who becomes his assistant, but the two get involved in a morbid and unhealthy professional and personal relationship.


Matteo Garrone


Ugo Chiti (story and screenplay), Massimo Gaudioso (story and screenplay) | 1 more credit »
16 wins & 20 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ernesto Mahieux ... Peppino Profeta
Valerio Foglia Manzillo Valerio Foglia Manzillo ... Valerio
Elisabetta Rocchetti ... Deborah
Lina Bernardi ... Deborah's Mother
Pietro Biondi Pietro Biondi ... Deborah's Father
Marcella Granito Marcella Granito ... Manuela
Giuseppe Arena Giuseppe Arena ... Workshop's Owner (as Beppe Arena)
Bernardino Terracciano Bernardino Terracciano ... Boss
Rosario J. Gnolo Rosario J. Gnolo ... Entrepreneur
Vincenzo Puocci Vincenzo Puocci ... Gangbanger #1
Renato Puocci Renato Puocci ... Gangbanger #2
Valentino Puocci Valentino Puocci ... Gangbanger #3
Aldo Leonardi Aldo Leonardi ... Deborah's Boss
Nadia Carlomagno Nadia Carlomagno ... Peppino's Friend #1
Rita Brugnoli Rita Brugnoli ... Peppino's Friend #2


Peppino is an aging taxidermist constantly ridiculed for being short and somewhat creepy. He meets Valerio, a handsome young man fascinated by Peppino's work. Peppino, in turn, becomes entranced by Valerio and offers him a large salary to come work as his assistant. But when Valerio meets Deborah, their fledgling romance is threatened by an insanely jealous third wheel. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance


Not Rated | See all certifications »


Official Sites:

Official site [Italy]





Release Date:

6 September 2002 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

The Taxidermist See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$10,313, 20 July 2003

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The movie is loosely based on a true fact, the murder of taxidermist Domenico Semeraro by his protege in 1990. See more »


I'm Your Man
Written by Leonard Cohen
Performed by Leonard Cohen
Courtesy of Columbia Records and Sony Music Entertainment (Canada) Inc.
By Arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
See more »

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User Reviews

Eerily beautiful, never obvious
2 April 2005 | by Asa_Nisi_Masa2See all my reviews

"The Embalmer" (which is what the title translates as) is, in a sentence, about Peppino, a middle-aged Neapolitan taxidermist of stunted growth (verging on dwarfhood) who employs a good-looking young assistant he soon becomes obsessed with. Furthermore, Peppino has Camorra connections (the Camorra is Naples's equivalent of the Sicilian Mafia) and is employed by the Neapolitan mobsters to sew drugs in and out of their excellent cadavers. With its superb cinematography, photography, soundtrack and imagery (some of the scenes featuring dead, stuffed animals in the lab are unforgettably eerie), the film will be appreciated by anyone who loves a well-scripted, steady but confidently-paced, subtle little thriller that's never a crowd-pleaser.

The sense of impending danger is always very strong and real in the viewer's mind, though it never really lashes into sensationalist, gratuitous violence. In fact there's next to no violence or blood in this film and not one single Tarantinesque, gun-waving shouting match between mobsters scene: in fact you hardly ever see a gun in the film. In L'Imbalsamatore, anger IMPLODES and is the stronger and more threatening for it, and the human element is far more prominent than the formal crime element. Though obviously, its organised crime subplot (which you only ever glance at sideways) is pivotal in heightening the sense of threat in the film. But it never crowds the film, which simply isn't ABOUT organised crime. L'Imbalsamatore boasts a psychologically credible theme of obsessive love and attraction which would make Fatal Attraction look hollow and fake. It's also never distasteful and never, ever makes cheap use of the main character's semi-disability as a shock element. Also, unlike the crass Michael Douglas movie, L'Imbalsamatore's obsessive lover is vulnerable and human, as only someone who constantly holds his bleeding heart in his hand can be. But when said obsessive lover starts resenting that the object of his adoration has had the emotional upper hand for too long, things can get REALLY scary. This is especially true when the spurned lover, any spurned lover has major Camorra connections, and the chestful of treasures he's been so selflessly offering his beloved is being dismissively waved away for the umpteenth time! You really get a sense of all the characters playing with fire in L'Imbalsamatore, which is why it succeeds in creating a sense of suspense which just never lets up (and yet never climaxing when you expect it to).

The film is also invested with genuine humanity and is never judgemental or moralistic. It moves us to sympathy towards the obsessive and love-lorn character, who despite his physical appearance and potentially lethal reactions, is invested with true pathos and dignity. His tears are bitter and no different from those of any other lover, no matter how good, handsome or psychologically healthy. And that's precisely why he's so scary.

Please watch l'Imbalsamatore: it really deserves more international acclaim.

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