Tueur À Gages (1998) (Killer)
A bleak and incisive social portrait of Kazakhstan following the fall of Soviet Union, Darezhan Omirbaev’s Killer (1998), on the outside, seems like a sudden detour from the director’s earlier works. Unlike the director’s previous three eloquent films, which respectively depicted a boy’s life in Kazakhstan during his childhood, adolescent and preadolescent periods, the sociopolitical description of the country here is neither allegorized nor limited by personal experience. What surfaces is a string of vignettes – highly redolent of the best of Italian neorealism – whose nearly mathematical structure betrays a need on the part of the director to speak out, to be overtly political. In the film, a scientist speaks about the importance of demonstration over verification (Omirbaev himself is a mathematician turned film theorist turned filmmaker). Likewise, Omirbaev takes it upon himself to demonstrate the various forces at work on an individual and to illustrate how the often depoliticized idea known as fate is nothing but a set of sociopolitical equations grounded in causality. He uses recurrent imagery and situations to highlight this idea of being unable to escape these forces. Interestingly, the acting, editing and direction are all highly Bressonian, with the excesses of the melodramatic script being continuously siphoned off by the austerity of (the sporadically heavy-handed) realization and relegation of all sensational action to off screen space and ellipses. Although Killer is anti-Bressonian in the sense that it dispels the illusion of randomness of grace, the penultimate encounter and the inevitable ending of the film is as affecting and as spiritually charged as the finest of Bresson.