Partisan (Ariel Kleiman, 2015)
Start the parade. The best film of the year so far is here and it’s AUSTRALIAN! Though Partisan doesn’t involve an Australian story or setting, it was filmed partly in Melbourne (as well as Georgia) and is made by talented Melburnian writer and director, Ariel Kleiman.
The trailers for Partisan give little away, and were almost frustratingly vague. In fact, I thought the film was going to be quite dull. But on the contrary, the trailer’s ambiguity was most certainly the right move. (Unfortunately, the film’s marketing team haven’t gone all out in hiding the plot – do not view the film’s website unless you want a massive spoiler.) Though it’s difficult to provide many thoughts on the film without divulging key plot points, I will refrain from doing so, because this film is best seen fresh.
The reveal comes gradually, and with it a deep sense of foreboding which never lets up over the entire course of the film. It’s rare that I see a movie without zoning out at least once, but I remained engaged every minute of this carefully crafted film.
Vincent Cassel is riveting as Gregori, an incredibly complex and intriguing character who we never completely get to know. We can only wonder what experiences have led him to his current lifestyle, and his actions remain disturbingly unpredictable. He is a master of manipulation – cool, calm, and collected on the surface, although we remain wary that his veneer could crack at any moment.
In his debut, Sydneysider Jeremy Chabriel delivers one of the best child performances in years. The thirteen year old actor is hauntingly beautiful as young Alexander, a child trying to make sense of his role in a world he knows little about. Chabriel doesn’t quite hide his Aussie accent, but it doesn’t matter. He recites his dialogue with total conviction and will probably melt your heart.
Kleiman’s screenplay deserves so much praise. There are pockets of dialogue that could have come close to pretentiousness, but instead manage to be utterly absorbing bits of prose that are rich in meaning without being convoluted in structure. Give this guy everything he needs to keep making films because for a debut this is freakin’ amazing. I’m not sure whether Oscar will come knocking given the Academy’s propensity to award only certain types of films that get released at certain times of year, but if there was any justice in the world then Partisan would certainly be on the ballot.
Partisan is also shot beautifully, although appearances are secondary here. Kleiman offers up some compelling themes, notably the values we teach children. Partisan isn’t an easy watch – be prepared for some violence – but god damn if it isn’t one of the best films you will see this year. Support local talent and you will be richly rewarded.