Dir: Ariel Kleiman
Starring: Vincent Cassel, Jeremy Chabriel, and Florence Mezzara
Well Go USA
Currently Available on VOD
3.50 out of 5.00
MONTE YAZZIE ~ THE FOOTHILLS FOCUS~ 10/14/2015
In director Ariel Kleiman’s introducing shot for his first feature “Partisan,” a man moves across a quiet, desperate landscape salvaging pieces of discarded lives that have left the small community that once existed there. We are never given a reason as to why the world endures in the way that it does in “Partisan”, merely dropped into dystopia and into a way of life without much reason. Building a world without explanation is a difficult task, especially one that is as bleak as the one on display here, but screenwriters Ariel Kleiman and Sarah Cyngler utilize a method of questioning that builds layer upon unanswered layer. While this at times disrupts some of the performance qualities from the always-interesting Vincent Cassel and the fantastic young newcomer Jeremy Chabriel, Kleiman holds the film together by utilizing a stark atmosphere that is guided narratively by a specific moral objective.
Gregori (Vincent Cassel) is the leader of a commune of mothers and children in a crumbling city devoid of any discernable time period. Gregori greets the mothers upon the birth of their children, raising and teaching the children how to grow food and care for livestock, and also teaching the children how to kill. An 11-year-old boy named Alexander has been taken under Gregori’s special guidance from birth, though as Alexander has grown he has also become more questioning of Gregori’s strict aversion to the outside world. Alexander makes a defiant stand, leading him to a realization about the life he has been forced into.
Kleiman paces the film slowly, meticulously displaying the routine and order of the commune to an extent that it feels almost pointless, but as the film progresses Kleiman utilizes this slow burn quality to emphasize the changes in the characters. Gregori is portrayed as more of a teacher than tyrant at first; his motives are never expressed and his distrust of the outside world is simply represented with anger. Alexander is curious of the world but conditioned into the order of the community he has always known, though he realizes that everything isn’t right and his eventual confrontation with Gregori changes the dynamic between them. Once this change occurs, the film moves with more desperation, Gregori feeling his influence slipping and Alexander confidently coming into his own strengths.
The world that Kleiman builds is amusing; it is an abandoned city that has been taken over by a diverse group of people, judging by their varied accents. The choice to cast Vincent Cassel as the villain is obvious, perhaps too obvious, but Kleiman does some interesting things with his character throughout. Jeremy Chabriel, who displays some impressive emotional range, confidently carriers the film from start to finish.
“Partisan” may not always execute as well as it should, especially in the beginning of the film. Some of the scenes can linger about for too long and the early heavy-handed vagueness of the script will turn some viewers away quickly. However, as the film progresses it’s easy to see the poise of Kleiman as a filmmaker take hold. “Partisan” ends up being an unusual yet thoughtful coming-of-age film.