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A sociopathic odyssey, SIMON KILLER is less explicit horror
and more the true nature of psychological thriller. Simon is unknowable; his
intentions, actions, words and the truth behind them, unknown. This, in effect,
When Antonio Campos’ deliberate camera isn’t focused on
Simon’s enigmatic behavior, it finds brief interludes in a cool blue wide look
at Paris. But it always dissolves to red, before giving way to a mad strobing.
It’s, much like Simon’s actions, abrasive and enthralling at once. It’s also
most likely how Simon sees. How he’s disengaged and icy, how he’s frightened or
mad or depressed, how he’s erratic. What Simon truly wants is frustratingly out
of reach, because by the end—one chilling moment of many—the viewer is unsure
if any genuine emotion was displayed.
Maybe in Simon’s sexual antics is where you can find his
true self. Often one-sided, Simon seems to find a perfect match in a
prostitute. She’s also disillusioned and disengaged—you may even be feeling
that way, too—but as we all find out, no one is on his level. After Simon
stages a brutal beating, Victoria (Mati Diop) takes him in, reluctantly giving over to his
neediness. Simon is intensely dependent. His prelude to sex comes from “just
wanting to look,” followed by a severe hugging of his partner’s torso. Simon’s
getting as close to the womb as he possibly can. At the same time, he’s fickle.
His fascination and need for Victoria is severed in the blink of an eye as he
catches a glimpse of another Parisian girl who’s struck his fancy; her lower
torso, also examined.
Simon’s father is never discussed. His mother appears once,
consoling via Skype. She still cares and wants to see him thrive, if no one
else will. He reaches out for affection, or some sort of bridge with the ruined
relationship he’s run away from. He writes and rewrites e-mails to a "Michelle," using small words to change his tune, to seem better than he is, or she thinks
he is. We never know what truly happened when she decided to leave, but as the
film progresses, Simon seems less reliable on the matter. He seems less
reliable on every matter, even his time in school. He perfectly recites an area
of study, never organically explains.
Though often deliberate in aesthetic, Campos is also playful
in direction and especially musical choices, using the melancholy grooves of
Spectral Display and LCD Soundsystem throughout. Early on, in his first bits of
dialogue in fact, Simon recants what brought him to Paris. Campos’ camera
slowly draws in and out. The viewer engages, empathizes, until Simon seems too
callous, too dismissive. Campos is forever manipulating the audience’s
identifications, as often as Simon manipulates those around him. Then, in the
aforementioned exchange with Simon’s mother, the director unfolds the scene in
a JEANNE DIELMAN-esque static view of his main subject in the kitchen, as we
objectively watch him break down. Simon,
the audience and SIMON KILLER are always off-balance.
SIMON KILLER will undoubtedly be referred to as a slow burn,
but like Campos’ previous film, the truth is it’s cracking. It is unexpected
and fascinating and because of such, constantly suspenseful. In just its looks and
phrases, it is frightening enough.
SIMON KILLER is currently playing the Rotterdam International Film Festival. The film continues its festival run at SF Indie on Feb 10, 11 +13. IFC releases the film in select theaters April 5, and on VOD April 12.
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