2015’s Partisan follows a cult of single mothers and their children who have been charmed and raised by the charismatic Gregori (Vincent Cassel). At first this cult, hidden away in a high rise wasteland, seems to be a safe haven for the women and their children who have felt so abandoned by the outer world. But the devotion to their leader indicates a deeper premise, which is revealed when (spoiler alert- skip to the next paragraph to avoid,) you realise Gregori is financing the cult by teaching the children to carry out assassinations in the town nearby.
The main problem with Partisan is its lack of climax. A strange portrait of cult life led by Vincent Cassel begins with interesting potential but strolls quite quickly into the mundane. The performances and situations which the characters end up in, coupled with tense techno music which seems to imply impending violence throughout, (which ultimately never arrives,) by the first hour make you sweaty, nervous and annoyed. All for very little return.
Alexander is the star of this film, played by Jeremy Chabriel and only 11 years old.
The first assassination you see carried out by a child, Alexander, is shocking. The complete lack of real understanding coupled with his reward when he returns home is horrifying and strangely fascinating. Undoubtedly, Alexander is the star of this film, played by Jeremy Chabriel and only 11 years old, he is striking in his natural believability. All the children are in fact. With Alexander the oldest at 11 the young cast which age from 2-10 are mesmerising in how at home they seem. This is one of the redeeming qualities of the film which features a strangely lacking performance from Vincent Cassel who is never allowed the outburst that you feel would really define his character. The mothers also are unexplored as characters, apart from Alexander’s mother who becomes pregnant.
The camerawork in this film varies in quality. The shots within the cult space are interesting but lack a sense of depth and seem a bit commonplace. However the shots of the outer world (Tbilisi) are structured and striking, wasteland punctuated by dirty high rises and thick grass. The director Ariel Kleiman, works well also with close ups finding the striking qualities of their cast and using them to her advantage – again the naturalistic child performances only improve these shots.
Overall the conclusion of the film, a horrific image which makes you gasp, is in many ways its peak. As you sit anxious and sweaty in your seat watching the credits roll you will feel as if this moment should have come sooner, for the sake of the film and your personal hygiene.
By Delilah Niel