The Killer Inside Me

July 30, 2010

Although Michael Winterbottom’s films are for the most part formally faultless, I often find that they fail in terms of cinematic affect. It was only after seeing Genoa (Genova, 2008) that I began to suspect his films might ultimately be lacking in tone. But after seeing the trailer for The Killer Inside Me (2010) I once again allowed myself to get my hopes up for what looked like a contender for best film of 2010. Sadly, and despite being; formally excellent; visually stunning so far as art direction and mise-en-scene are concerned; and showcasing some absolutely stellar performances; The Killer Inside Me just wasn’t dark enough in its overall tone to truly leave its audience feeling something. Anything.

Now this is the bit where I admit to not having read the book, an admission I imagine is met with a plethora of “tsks” and shaking heads from the pedants amongst LV’s readership. But to your “tsks” and shaking heads I say this: it is irrelevant for two basic reasons; 1) the film was not made with the intent of being seen by only the relative number of people who have read the book (even with wide readership this is limiting when one considers that it is the primary aim of film distributors to make money, ergo this would be counter-distributor-intuitive) and 2) because a film has to be able to stand up on its own regardless of its “source material”. So, despite my being assured that for the most part the film is a fairly faithful adaptation of the novel (I have pedant friends who keep me well-informed I’ll have you know), I have it on good authority that the one thing evading the film is the novel’s successfully “oppressive, sweaty, horrible tone” (Anthony Morris.)

The atonal tale itself is of Lou Ford (expertly performed by Casey Affleck), a self-professed “man and a gentleman” who happens also to harbour sociopathic and insatiably sadist desires that confuse pleasure and pain with love and vengeance. And whilst this makes for a fascinating premise, its execution is only successful up unto a point. Preferencing aesthetics above tone, The Killer Inside Me is occasionally brutal in its visual violence though never actually dark in depiction. But perhaps leaving the audience as cold as what witnessing the narrative actions of a sociopath ought is the intent behind the adaptation- in which case I’d say choosing Winterbottom to direct was an absolutely smashing idea.

The Killer Inside Me screens as part of this year’s MIFF and will be screening again on Monday August 02, 9.15pm at the Forum Theatre.

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