TO KILL A MAN
A Chilean drama from 2014 that makes for an interesting companion-piece to 2013’s BLUE RUIN, being an artful reality-oriented look at a quiet man driven to madness and murder.
Inspired by the actual confessions of a convicted murderer--as overheard by writer-director Alejandro Fernandez Almendras--TO KILL A MAN (MATAR A UN HOMBRE) received a surprising amount of mainstream recognition, having won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and being Chile’s official submission for a Best Foreign Film Academy Award (which it didn’t receive). Make no mistake, though: despite its arty pedigree this gruesome and disturbing film (in which a decaying corpse figures prominently) will probably NOT win over too many mainstream viewers!
Jorge is a hardworking family man employed as the caretaker of a lucrative beachfront property. One night he’s mugged by Kalule, a local thug. Jorge’s son later confronts Kalule at the latter’s apartment, only to be shot (though not killed) in the attempt. Kalule later claims Jorge and his son broke into his apartment and harassed him, but the cops don’t buy his defense and sentence him to a year and a half in prison.
Upon his release Kalule takes to making threatening phone calls to Jorge and his family. Jorge has a restraining order taken out against Kalule, who responds by throwing stones at Jorge’s house. Jorge informs the police but the wheels of justice are slow to turn, and by the time they do Jorge’s teenage daughter is manhandled by Kalule on her way home from school.
Jorge decides to take the law into his own hands in an elaborate scheme involving a shotgun, a refrigerated truck and his place of employment. What he doesn’t take into account is the toll this revenge will take on him legally and psychologically.
TO KILL A MAN’S main selling point is its simplicity: there are no subplots or superfluous supporting characters to distract from the core narrative. This ultra-stripped down approach results, unfortunately, in some confusing and undeveloped plot points, such as Jorge’s divorce from his wife, which seemingly occurs around the film’s midpoint but is never shown or entirely explained--even though it has a not-inconsiderable bearing on the outcome.
The narrative is essentially a variant on the tried-and-true DEATH WISH formula, but enlivened by the artistry of director Alejandro Fernandez Almendras and actor Daniel Candia, whose utterly convincing portrayal of a normal man driven over the edge is instrumental to the films’ effectiveness.
Much like its protagonist the film is resolutely quiet and unassuming. Almendras helms in an unnervingly detached, unemotional manner that favors fixed camera set-ups, and has a tendency to hold for disconcertingly long periods on people-less wide shots and lengthy dialogue-free stretches in which the protagonist goes about his (sometimes nasty) business. This often gives the proceedings a distractingly artsy feel, yet the film is always compelling.
TO KILL A MAN (MATAR A UN HOMBRE)
Arizona Films/El Remanso
Director: Alejandro Fernandez Almendras
Producers: Guillaume de Seille, Eduardo Villalobos
Screenplay: Alejandro Fernandez Almendras
Cinematography: Inti Biones
Editing: Soledad Salfate Doren, Alejandro Fernandez Almendras
Cast: Daniel Candia, Alejandra Yanez, Daniel Antivilo, Ariel Mateluna, Jennifer Salas, Don Wille, Paula Leoncini, Danel Urrutia Laubreaux, Eduardo Villalobos, Sol Banoviez, Jorge Sandoval