Watching Antonio Campos‘s Simon Killer at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, I couldn’t help think of AMC ‘s TV show Breaking Bad. Both that show and this film embrace their titles and feature the systematic devolution of a human from generally likable to downright nasty. Simon Killer just does it through an indie film lens: subtly, psychologically and with a younger character. That character, Simon, masterfully played by Melancholia star Brady Corbet, is a troubled young college graduate trying to find himself in Paris. From there, he slowly becomes a despicable human being you can’t take your eyes off of.

I can’t say Simon Killer is always pleasant to watch, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to make you feel the way this character feels, and in that it aim it succeeds.

Not only is Simon Killer the story of a lost young man making increasing bad decisions, Campos’ directorial choices aim to place you in his head. The pop and house soundtrack gives the film a rhythmic pacing, ethereal strobe and lighting effects are used throughout, and much of the film borrows from Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void as it is shot from behind the head of a particular character. In these scenes, we are the character and Campos’ camera takes us all over Paris, guerrilla style. Later, much of the film is shot at waist level; an odd choice for sure, but a major plot point involving a camera phone and a prostitute gives one possible explanation for the choice.

Oh, that’s right, Simon becomes involved with a prostitute named Victoria (Mati Diop). It seems like the two have it all figured out until Simon throws out a wild suggestion sending the pair into a downward spiral. And just when you think a bad situation can’t get any worse, it does. You hate Simon then, but Campos forces the dramatic irony on his audience. You sit there and pity the other characters unaware of his insanity.

Simon Killer is a polarizing film to be sure. Moments are extremely uncomfortable, it doesn’t really have anything in particular to say and much of it is left open to interpretation. But thanks to stellar direction and star making lead performance, it ends up being emotionally engaging on every level.

/Film Rating 7.5 out of 10

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About the Author

Germain graduated NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Cinema Studies program in 2002 and won back to back First Place awards for film criticism from the New York State Associated Press in 2006 and 2007.

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