A simple, short and sad tale about life in today’s Kazakhstan, “Killer” is poised to further the critical following of minimalist director Darezhan Omirbaev. Very much in the Bressonian style that he used in “Kairat” and “Kardiogramma,” pic describes the swift and seemingly inevitable descent of an honest young man into murder. Long, immobile shots and flat-line perfs do not a wide audience make, but film has its own type of beauty that fest auds should respond to warmly.
Marat (Talgat Assetov) is the chauffeur of a noted scientist. On his way home from the maternity hospital with his wife (Roksana Abouova) and new baby son, he causes a minor traffic accident. Unable to pay damages on the two cars, he falls into the hands of a money-lender. His attempt to buy a car in Germany and resell it at a profit to climb out of debt ends in disaster. When the baby falls sick and needs treatment, the only way out for Marat is to do the gangster’s bidding and murder a journalist.
More tensely drawn than Omirbaev’s two previous films, “Killer” strips the story down to its bare bones, with never an excess shot or line of dialogue. A few details suffice to describe the nouveau riche gangster’s house, or a bar where leggy girls in sailors’ costumes strip. Every detail is subtly tied to the social situation, offering a great deal of info about a lawless world where life is terribly precarious and anything could happen tomorrow.
Giving the story additional depth is its skillfully integrated, low-key takes on contemporary society. The scientist gives a radio interview about the psy-chological problems of his lab workers who haven’t been paid in six months. Later, after his suicide when the lab closes down, a police officer reads from his book about how mathematics expresses the harmony of the world — exactly what the film shows as missing in the unbalanced world that entraps Marat.
Omirbaev is fully in control of his material, exploiting the great power of simple ideas. Clearly, this kind of filmmaking isn’t for everyone, and the long-held shots on quiet scenes test viewer’s patience, as do the actors’ expressionless faces and deliberate non-acting.
Boris Troshev’s fixed-frame cinematography contributes to film’s rigorous look.