From Australian filmmaker Ariel Kleiman comes Partisan, his directorial debut which explores the gritty and grimy reality of an Eastern European cloistered cult. The film unfolds like origami, a little at first, and then all at once. At the outset, it delivers frustratingly little in the way of plot, and is instead dominated by somber landscapes and a heavy orchestral score. It’s a convincing depiction of a dehumanised landscape, and the cinematography is flawless, but the lack of plot does leave the audience grasping.
In the absence of a defined narrative, however, is the relationship between cult leader and father figure Vincent Cassell (Black Swan) and his eldest son Alexander, played by French newcomer Jeremy Chabriel. The strength, quiet intensity and emotionless gaze in Chabriel’s piercing blue eyes is young acting at its finest. Character detail is not given away easily – Kleiman forces the audience to infer from long, expositional scenes of the cult life tacked end-to-end with very little in between. The film is carefully crafted and beautifully acted, but it does have a tendency toward meditation rather than exposition. A little less chainsmoking and a little more dialogue from Cassell’s character would have gone a long way.
The real story takes hold when Chabriel’s character begins to question the sheltered life in which he has been brought up. As Alexander’s curiosity begins to grow, Cassell’s character uses both the carrot and the stick to stifle it, at which point the film abruptly and frustratingly ends without resolve.
Nevertheless, Kleiman is a director to keep an eye on. He displays a talent for attacking themes that many independent filmmakers refuse to touch, as in his earlier short films Young Love and Deeper Than Yesterday. In Partisan, he has created an entertaining, suspenseful film that, despite its shortcomings, should definitely be seen by Australian audiences.
Go here for the trailer.
Partisan opens in limited release on May 28th.