Antonio Campos burst onto the indie scene with the excellent Afterschool, made when the director was a mere 24 years of age. His sophomore effort has certainly garnered plenty of praise since its Sundance debut in January 2012. One of the remarkable things about its UK release is that it forms part of the now iconic Masters Of Cinema range from Eureka, one of a select number of contemporary releases to do so.
We begin in Paris where we meet Simon (Brady Corbet) who has just broken up from Michelle, his girlfriend of five years after discovering her having an affair. He only intends to stay in the city for a week, and has the opportunity of staying in a friends’ apartment whilst they’re away for a short period of time.
On his first night in Paris he goes to watch a play, meets a couple of girls on the way home and almost gets into a fight before returning back to the apartment alone for some fairly intensive masturbation over an internet porn chat room. It’s at this point, only fifteen minutes into the film that we begin to understand that Simon Killer is less about telling the story of this person’s visit to France, but more about gradually building a profile of who this person is, and he’s a complex soul at that.
Back out into the Parisian nightlife the following evening Simon gets assaulted in the street – although who initiated the scuffle remains a mystery. He calls upon a prostitute, Victoria (Mati Diop) who he visited the previous night and pleads for her help as he says he has nowhere to stay. Surprisingly she falls for his dubious tale of misadventure and lets him stay in her place. Here she tells of a previous relationship – a marriage where she found herself abused and beaten up, presumably the catalyst for her descent into prostitution.
As the film progresses and their relationship develops, Simon has the idea to begin to blackmail Victoria’s clients. As he puts it himself, “why take a little money off a lot of men, when you can take a lot of money of fewer men”. Unsurprisingly things don’t go to plan, and his relationship with Victoria becomes increasingly complex, so too does our understanding of Simon’s motives and general the unpredictability that pervades his demeanour.
Simon Killer is a fascinating character study with Brady Corbet resplendent in the difficult lead role. He excels in his portrayal Simon managing to even invoke a smidgen of sympathy for a character that is totally unlikeable and at times repulsive. The director retains some of the style from his previous film Afterschool, but I feel he really succeeds here by managing to shoot Paris in a distinctly non-tourist manner which provides the necessary feelings of isolation and loneliness needed for us to peek inside the disturbing mind of Simon.
The movie does of course come with the predictable caveat of “it won’t be for everyone”, and to be honest it does fall more squarely into the drama genre with elements of psychological horror thrown in. However, if you have a propensity for challenging filmmaking coupled with a desire to be placed unapologetically inside the mind of a disturbed individual, then look no further.
7.5 out of 10