Movie Suggestion VI – Essential Killing
Directed by: Jerzy Skolimowski Winner of Venice Special Jury Prize and Best Actor for Vincent Gallo.
Here we have a truly multinational movie which shows how much globalized is the world we live in. Directed by the Polish master Jerzy Skolimowski, “Essential Killing” was filmed in Israel, Poland and Norway. As stars we have Vincent Gallo, an American actor playing a Muslim insurgent and also the talented French actress Emmanuelle Seigner (married to Roman Polanski).
The plot is quite simple: “The film tells the story of a man, captured in the desert by Army forces, who finds himself transported to a nameless Eastern European country. He manages to escape into the vast frozen woodland, a world away from the desert home he knew. Forced into extreme survival mode, he must kill anyone who strays into his path”, but don’t let the plot’s simplicity fool you. Essential Killing is a very powerful movie.
Jerzy Skolimowski summarizes something that is true, but we mostly don’t think about: “It impresses me that we are in the 21st century and in certain situations a human being is able to become an animal; a wild animal fighting for its life. When an animal is attacked, killing is the only way to survive. Essential Killing shows us the history of a man reduced to a wild animal (adapted)”.
A well done review by Marcelo Hessel brings out some interesting aspects: “Since the moment Mohammed was arrested in the desert, he kills not because he wants to, or even because of his beliefs, but actually out of necessity. When in Norway, on the ice, he murders dogs and men out of self defense – it is the essential killing. Skolimowski doesn’t try to justify acts of terror. He is, in fact, submitting a common man (a man that doesn’t seem to have any sort of Taliban vocation or even the notion to be a Muslim terrorist) to a real life test (adapted).
Skolimowski also states that the movie isn’t too political: “I don’t even say whether the film starts in Afghanistan, Iraq or maybe some other place, whether it’s an American military base, where the prisoners are kept, whether it’s situated in any of those countries. I don’t say whether the plane which is landing somewhere in Europe is really landing in Szymany, in Poland”. In addiction: “In the facial features of Vincent Gallo there is something that is difficult to identify. Nobody knows where he is. I was hoping that even if Vincent will not be received as a native Arab or Muslim, and so it will always be different, neither here nor there. Besides, it could be someone like John Walker Lindh, the famous Californian who was Taleb and joined Osama bin Laden affiliates”.As stated before, it is the story of a man, reduced to an animal that will do anything to survive.
Vincent Gallo doesn’t speak a word in “Essential Killing”. His face, his body movements, his mannerisms, the movie itself, the plot, the landscapes and story don’t need a single word from the actor. Everything is so powerful and brilliant that words are meaningless when it comes to “Essential Killing”.
To end this movie suggestion, Fernando F. Croce concludes: “(Essential Killing is) Arguably the most abstract chase film since Joseph Losey’s “Figures in the Landscape”, this is a furious, pared-down parable enriched by the Polish director’s sardonic understanding of man’s desperation forever alternating between prey and predator.”
Like the story or not, Vincent Gallo or not, this movie is a must watch. I know I do, both the story and Vincent Gallo’s works.April 12, 2014