Sunday, 12 October 2014
At the LFF: "The Man in the Orange Jacket"
Aik Karapetian's pointedly brisk Latvian slasher The Man in the Orange Jacket deserves credit for many things, not least for succeeding in turning the workaday high-visibility tabard into an item of terror comparable to Freddy Krueger's matted jumper and Jason Vorhees' hockey mask. Between ominous, Haneke-like fadeouts, the briefest of expository snatches let us know we've entered its world just after a series of lay-offs at a port in some grey, grim nowhere. Thereafter, the fun and games - and funny games - begin: one of the fired workers (Maksim Lazarev, who rather resembles a more robust, Slavic Pete Doherty) breaks off from the group, breaks into the port boss's well-appointed retreat, and enacts a deadly form of payback. The first surprise of Karapetian's film is that all this comes to be dealt with before the opening credits; the writer-director's chief concern lies with what the killer does next.
As our nameless antagonist installs himself in his victim's mansion, trying on suits, picking out a tune or two on the piano, and ignoring a phone that keeps ringing, we start to sense that the emptiness that follows such a crime might be as horrifying, or at least as disconcerting, as the crime itself, and perhaps, just perhaps, its own punishment. (Out of the corner of the eye, you can see the ghosts of Dostoyevsky hovering into vision.) This killer becomes only more vulnerable after making his killing, betraying himself and his motives both at a fancy restaurant (where he makes a working-class hash of the cutlery) and in his interactions with two prostitutes he hires (which reveal fantasies of humiliation and degradation: he's all too clearly getting off on the power money can buy).
His visitors are hardly a reassuring bunch, all told: first a representative of the kind of sharks Latvian businessmen presumably have to swim with, then that tabarded figure - his high visibility making him an unusual, effective phantom, popping out from this especially overcast part of the countryside - who might represent our killer's earlier, revolutionary self, dispatched here to teach this brute a lesson or two about selling out. The Lazarev character begins the film unleashing his anger on others; he will end it wrestling with himself. Anyone in the market for cheap thrills might be referred elsewhere: Karapetian plays Delibes' "Flower Duet" over scenes of a girl being chased through the woods, which speaks to a certain high-mindedness, and positions him closer to Gaspar Noe than Eli Roth on the horror spectrum. Yet such formal elegance masks a spiky, bloodily-won political message, possibly close to the heart of a filmmaker operating in a former Soviet state: what use is it to overthrow an unfair system, if you wind up being seduced and compromised by all its gleaming tchotchkes?
The Man in the Orange Jacket screens on Tue 14 at 8.45pm in NFT2, and again on Sun 19 at 9pm at the Curzon Soho.