Liliana Cavani is probably best known for her portrayal of a complex erotic relationship between a former SS officer and a concentration camp survivor in her 1974 filmThe Night Porter. Largely overlooked however is her 1970 feature, The Year of the Cannibals, which investigates a different kind of obscene authority and the "natural rebellion" it provokes.
In this loose adaptation of Antigone set in a near-future Milan, the State has forbidden the removal of the bodies of rebels that litter the streets. As a result, the corpses are stepped over and ignored by the citizens, reminding us how a comfortable private existence in the metropolis everywhere means turning a blind eye to misery. Britt Ekland (The Man with the Golden Gun) and Pierre Clémenti (Pigsty, The Conformist) band together as vigilante body-snatchers in defiance of the decree, and ultimately face repression and execution. A radical chic romp that recalls A Hard Day's Nightand Clémenti's work with Groupe Zanzibar, The Year of the Cannibals also offers a sober early analysis of the notorious "years of lead" in Italy, characterized by witch-hunts and wholesale incarceration of suspected militants.
As Cavani told Écran in 1974: "I intended to use the language of myth and universal symbols to avoid the revolutionary speeches that had become a cliché by 1969-1970. … [The Year of the Cannibals] is not the chronicle of a revolution, … but the spectral analysis of reality beyond the various episodes that characterized the demonstrations. I believe it is a comprehensive analysis, and primarily a discourse of generations."