Based on the novel by Cuban author Humberto Arenal, Cannibal comes to life through the eyes of director Manuel Martín Cuenca. Antonio de la Torre plays a cannibalistic Spanish tailor like a piece of walking poetry. With slow, barely audible steps, he emerges from a dark corridor, blending so well into the shadows that only the whites of his shirt collar and cuffs can be seen.
The film's tagline is "a love story," and though those words imply that de la Torre's character, Carlos, will find romance and perhaps even give up his unique diet, the phrase rather refers to Carlos's internal suffering. The way he chooses and treats his victims suggests that he thinks of himself as an artist. He selects women for whom he feels an instant carnal desire, and when he takes them back to his quiet cabin in the mountains, he gently places their limp bodies on a table, smells the freshness of their flesh, and cuts. A tailor by day, Carlos maintains the same form of delicacy and precision in everything he does.
Much as the cannibal lives his life in solitude and silence, Cuenca layers the film with strong, simple visuals and everyday happenings. Common sounds are amplified so that Carlos's mastication can be heard just as loudly as the way he puts down a plate or picks up a fork. Despite the film's leisurely pace, nothing is wasted -- no word, no image, no sound. Every element is blended together to create individual scenes that come to feel like stand-alone photographs, leaving viewers both captivated and even ultimately feeling compassion for the anti-hero.