The great French actor Jean-Louis Trintingnant stars as Marco, who is unhappily married to Anna, the ambitious and unethical owner of a chicken farm undergoing rapid modernization. The two look after the young Gabrielle, a distant cousin of Anna and surreptitious mistress to Marco. There is also a mysterious fourth player, Mondaini, an advertising expert who is helping Marco design a new chicken-themed marketing campaign.
It takes some time before there is any sense of what the plot is going to be. Unlike the usual giallo structure, there is no unidentified killer knocking off beautiful women one by one. Well… except for Marco, who regularly meets and murders prostitutes at a motel, but I’m not counting those.
At the black heart of the plot is a plan to frame a character for a murder he/she already intended to commit, exactly the type of fatal irony that the nihilistic tone demands. But the core of the story and its character dynamics are often less interesting than the peripheral details. These include,
1) A robotic grain distributer which becomes a diabolical killing machine,
2) A psychotic poultry corporation willing to stop at nothing for more profit, and
3) a scientist who creates hideous chicken freaks, born without heads or wings, to increase meat output.
There’s no question that Questi and co-writer Franco Arcalli were trying to get across a potent message about the direction consumer culture, the sexual revolution and corporate modernization was leading, but the way they contrive to combine them is almost too trippy to translate. Their dialog isn’t successful on a serious level. Arcalli strings together hard-boiled* quips that waver awkwardly between artsy psychological insights and hilarious nonsense, but never come close to real world conversations. Below is an example:
Anna: I was noticing Gabrielle today. We were down at the pool together.
Marco: Gabrielle! What does she have to do with anything?
Anna: Her body seems to be made of separate parts… beautifully united, but still each one perfected to be separated and put together again.
Marco: You make her sound like a toy you and can dissemble just for the fun of it. You might kill her in the process.
Anna: It wouldn’t be to destroy her, but to remake her… a different way every time.
Marco: That’s pretty abstract.
Anna: There’s nothing abstract about Gabrielle when you see her nude.
And so on. The best part is that Anna isn’t even planning to kill Gabrielle or anything. She actually really likes her!
It makes a certain sense that Arcalli also served as editor. He clearly knew exactly how he wanted to chop the film up, and what type imagery should accompany each scene. “Death Laid an Egg” is a rare slow film that makes use of fast editing, particularly a wide array of off-kilter, mood-manipulating montages.
The consensus amongst the relatively few critics who have watched “Death Laid an Egg” seems to be that the film is a difficult and frustrating beast that lashes out experimental tentacles in all directions and generally makes a mess of everything. Personally, I found the film to be deeply thought-provoking, shockingly creative and oddly cogent. It’s probably one of my favorite giallo, and I tentatively recommend it for giallo-surrealist fans.
Walrus Rating: 8.5