Saturday, June 8, 2013

Simon Killer (Rhoades)

Corbet’s Portrayal
Of “Simon Killer”
Leaves Us Unsettled

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

If you were an actor looking for someone to pattern a creepy character on, where would you turn? Literature? Real people you’ve heard about? Brady Corbet, star of the unsettling film “Simon Killer,” looked at both.
He plays Simon, an odd young man who goes off to Paris to clear his head after a bad breakup. As it turns out, Simon’s is not a good head to be inside of. He’s aloof, cold, and unfeeling, a pathological liar. We catch him at it. We have trouble identifying with the character because we don’t trust him to be honest with us.
Simon goes to a sex club, where he meets a prostitute named Victoria. Inexplicably, she is attracted to him and they move in together. She tells him everything about her past -- intimate details, her miscarriage -- but he withholds details about himself. Revealing little. A distant character that we voyeuristically watch but can’t quite figure out.
Maybe we’re a little fearful of understanding him.
The camera follows Simon, always looking over his shoulder. We watch Simon having sex, but we’re distracted by the nudity, learning very little about what motivates him. He’s strange, unnerving. The kaleidoscopic use of colors is meant to convey Simon’s mental state, his “abstracted way of seeing the world around him.”
Turns out, the story’s not as important as the psychological profile. Portuguese director António Campos (“Afterschool”) sees “Simon Killer” -- currently playing at the Tropic Cinema -- as a film “exploring contemporary male behavior.”
As Corbet tells it, “Simon Killer” started off as a kernel of an idea that Antonio had -- the way somebody goes from being a pathological liar to becoming a full-fledged bad person. “Some things were written, some things weren’t. We would kind of do these improv rehearsals and then transcribe whatever was working from those rehearsals onto the page.”
How did Brady Corbet (“Martha Marcy May Marlene”) do it, play this bleak, hollow antihero called Simon?
“I treated each scene like its own narrative because I think his lies are true for him,” the actor confesses.
Some moviegoers have compared the character to Tom Ripley, the amoral psychopath in Patricia Highsmith’s literary thrillers.
However, Corbet points in another direction. “We never discussed Tom Ripley,” he says. “The story was very much inspired by Georges Simenon’s novels which were stories that would frequently chronicle the downward spiral of its male protagonists into a pit of urban decay. We were interested in subverting Noir genre expectations, as well as the expectations of the coming-of-age story.”
The real-life model? “We discussed Joran van der Sloot a great deal in pre-production,” admits Corbet. “He was the only point-of-reference for us.”
Van der Sloot is the 26-year-old Dutch playboy accused of killing a young woman in Aruba and another in Peru.
The script of “Simon Killer” starts out with a Jordan Van Der Sloot quote:  “If I had to describe myself as an animal, it would be a snake. However I want to be a lion and I lion I will be, one day."
“I think that the character is physiologically disposed to behave in the way that he does,” observes Corbet. “I also think that his own narcissism bars him from making intelligent choices.”
In short, it’s a movie about inner demons.

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