The Criminal Man debuts at Venice Horizons section

By Moira Sullivan

The Criminal Man © La Biennale di Venezia

The Criminal Man
premiered at the 76th Venice Film Festival in the Horizons section on Sept 4, a well-crafted film with excellent cinematography by Anton Gromov, directed by Dmitry Mamuliya from Georgia in the Russian Federation.

The film starts with a car traveling along a road surrounded by small hills in an industrial area. There is a side shot of a man looking at this journey from a distance staring intently like Ulysses in a lost land. There is something going on between two cars close to the lone traveler that doesn’t look quite right. And then there is the sound of a shot not once, but twice and once more. The observer does nothing and returns home. He is Giorgi Meskhi (Giorgi Petriashvili),  a 27-year old deputy chief engineer at a plant. The interior of his workplace is gritty and run down as are the workers who congregate over a dirty table for breaks.

How does a seemingly harmless voyeur with a steady job become a serial murderer? This is the premise of Kathyrn Bigelow’s Blue Steel in 1990 with Jamie Lee Curtis playing rookie NYPD cop Megan Turner. During a grocery store robbery, Officer Turner pulls her gun and shoots at an armed assailant. Her gun drops to the floor. Nearby is a man who watches intently especially her gun. From there the man who works full time selling stocks begins shooting random people at will.

The shooter in The Criminal Man is foremost someone who likes to watch. He peeps through windows at a young woman half dressed. There is nothing erotic about the shots, but what is off and definitely suspicious is this man’s long silent emotionless stares. At work are witnesses to the shooting of an athlete. "The Criminal Man" knows them and the athlete and attends the funeral. Here a connection is made between the voyeurism of spectator sports, witnessing crimes, and peeping toms as precursors to pursuing crime with serious intent, such as a serial murder – not just an innocent standby-er. Just knowing that he has watched this celebrity on TV intrigues the shooter and witnessing his murder and keeping silent is another thrill. If there is no pleasure in the watching, he is a man coiled up ready to spring if his field of vision is interfered with. While watching goings on in a parking lot he is asked then shoved to move on by security guards. This rattles him so we see his deadly intent for the first time that is behind his voyeurism. We see one of his first jobs where he gives a ride to a young teenage boy. When passing his destination, the boy is at first upset, then calm, like an animal caught as prey but not yet killed. The boy manages to get away even while a pistol is aimed at his fleeing body in a deserted meadow.

The Criminal Man was one of the best films in the Horizon section at Venice and is intriguing in its vision though disturbing. The crew working on this film was equally adept at showing the story as director Dmitry Mamuliya and scriptwriter Archil Kikodze is at telling it.

© 2019 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 09/04/19
Movie Magazine International