Fantastic Fest Review: Carlos Conceição’s ‘Name Above Title’
Despite the absence of dialogue Carlos Conceição’s atmospheric thriller Name Above Title is bursting at the seams with style, from it’s brutally graphic murder sequences to the beautifully framed and lit shots showcasing the film’s unique setting of Lisbon, Portugal. Opening with the viewer following a heavily intoxicated young woman who’s stumbling around a high rise bar before she jumps from the balcony and then immediately cutting to the main character as he’s committing a brutal murder, the film wastes absolutely no time getting to the action. After he’s tucked his latest victim into the trunk of his high end European sports car the killer heads back into town, where as he parks in front of a building is greeted by the body of the aforementioned drunk woman smashing into the pavement. Things take a rather strange turn after this furiously paced intro when the killer leans down and kisses the woman’s dying lips, which quickly catapults him to social media stardom as bystanders’ videos of the kiss go viral overnight.
After soaking in his newfound online fame for a day or two with his professional acquaintances, he heads out to dispose of the body that’s still in his trunk. Almost immediately after doing so he meets his next victim at the gas station, another young woman who he promptly begins seducing before inviting on a drive to the country. Meanwhile there’s a photographer hot on his trail who’s still chasing after some of that secondhand fame and in the process has gotten very suspicious of the killer. He follows the couple all the way to the deserted rural area where they’ve come to fool around, which is where the narrative begins to take a dark and unexpected descent towards the revelatory final act. The camerawork is beautiful from start to finish, shot in a classic 4:3 aspect ratio that really accentuates the framing. It makes the film pleasing to look at even when there’s nothing really discernible happening on screen, which is a large portion of the time considering there’s no dialogue when characters are interacting one another. These interactions are still coherent enough to convey what’s happening in the grand scheme of things, but this aspect will definitely make the film difficult to engage with moment to moment for some viewers since character interactions make up so much of the film’s fifty-nine minute runtime.
It would’ve been interesting to see this structured episodically in the vein of something like Eugene Kotylarenko’s Feast of Burden, as breaking it up into episodes could’ve really helped with the pacing issues that are highly present despite this being such a short feature. It’s a hard film to watch if you’re not looking for the very specific type of psychological, slow burn experience it’s trying to provide but if you can get to the final act it’ll change how you view the entire thing from a narrative standpoint. Those final few minutes really “nail” down the thematics and “hammer” home the film’s message in a cleverly dark way. Even after this climactic reveal the viewer is left with a myriad of questions but it feels like that’s the point since these thoughts are all set into motion by that final scene leaving you to mull it all over as the final piece of eerie, well-placed music plays over the credits. Name Above Title manages to convey a lot of ideas considering nobody speaks an audible word the entire time but would almost certainly benefit from multiple watches if you find yourself a fan following the first, as there’s likely multiple visual cues as to what lies ahead that are meaningless without the context of the ending. Keep your shovels handy for release information, which will be stuffed into the trunk of this article once it’s revealed.