The Criminal Man (Borotmokmedi) : ‘Venice’ Review – Making A Murderer
Dmitry Mamuliya’s glacially paced, taut psychological thriller The Criminal Man (Borotmokmedi) thematically stems out of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s tranquil spirit. A slight, minimal narrative with sparse dialogues actually withholds a complex subliminal conundrum involving the lead protagonist George Meskhi (Giorgi Petriashvili), a 28-year-old deputy-chief engineer from an industrial town. Meskhi is a social outcast living an insignificant and bland life in his untethered cocoon of solitude.
George’s humdrum life turns upside down after he accidentally witnesses the murder of a famous football goalkeeper. Being the only eye witness to this sensational murder, George finds new meaning in life through his romantic obsession with the murder and which leads him onto a perilous journey.
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The film opens with an extremely long shot of two white cars traversing the vast, barren land on the outskirts of Tbilisi. We see tidbits of the drama unfolding inside the car carrying three men without any dialogue. Then it goes back to the extremely long shot as both the vehicle stop in the middle of secluded land.
The goalkeeper of the national team (Nukri Revishvili) is shot thrice and left on the road. George becomes the only witness to the crime. He hurriedly looks around to gather if someone else has seen it. He is intrigued by the event unfolding in front of his eyes rather than being shocked. He prowls towards the dead victim and observes his body patiently. He goes back to his home and decides not to tell his sister about his accidental discovery. He doesn’t inform to the police as well. As the crime gathers the media’s attention, Georges’ interest pique in to uncover the murderers’ identity on his own.
The murder, the scene of crime and drama surrounding it revives his empty life. He finds himself emotionally invested in it. The crime sits in his heart and mind like he has suddenly found one true love. He often goes back to the crime scene as if it imparts meaning to his life. At one point, he even goes back to the crime scene and lies down in the same position he found the body.
After he could not contain his delirious state, he reveals it to his sister and takes her to visit the scene of the crime, as if it’s a sanctified place. In parallel, he starts an amateur investigation. He follows the deceased’s widow and daughter and attends the funeral to collect any evidence. He follows criminals to study them for his investigation.
Until one day, his obsession turns into madness that threatens his ethical boundary. He realises that to understand the psyche of the murderer and whom he’s looking for, he has to start behaving like them. He buys a gun to walk in the shoes of a criminal. He gradually assumes his new life as a criminal.
It’s a perfect recipe for a pulpy crime thriller incorporating the exaggerated emotionalism and drama. Instead, Dmitry takes a deliberate turn towards a more realistic depiction of life, and like Dostoevsky, he does an in-depth exploration of Meskhi’s psychological struggle. Anton Gromov & Alisher Khamidkhodzhaev’s natural dim-light photography from a distance adds a layer to the evaluation of the dark psyche. The drama unfolds within the limited camera movements set against a vast deserted landscape.
Giorgi Petriashvili’s internalized performance coupled with a blank expression and innocent face keep a layer of vagueness to his action. It helps the story to build on that. Even the supporting characters help in an exhaustive examination of Meskhi’s behaviour as a response to their normal life put to trouble in the wake of the murder.
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‘The Criminal Man (Boroktmokmedi)’ has a deceptively simple narration squarely focusing on the germination of the crime in the heart of a commoner who obsesses over the murder. The film is not an easy watch. You feel every passing second like it is leisurely unravelling itself in front of your eyes. Every subplot and characters have a layer of ambiguity, so you have to have a well-rested mind and significant observation skills to integrate the puzzle pieces.