Essential Killing, Jerzy Skolimowski’s exercise in pure filmmaking, begins with a helicopter shot following three US soldiers on patrol. The parched, desert-like landscape, riven by gullies and canyons, could be Iraq or Afghanistan. They are on the hunt for the enemy, and soon find him. Portrayed by Vincent Gallo, he is a tribal soldier, bearded with a turban, who could be Taliban or Al Queda. What follows is a struggle for survival that can also be read as a desperate fight for freedom, and Skolimowski is very careful to avoid any prescriptive interpretation of his narrative.
No one is named in Essential Killing and there is virtually no dialogue as we follow the capture, incarceration and interrogation of a “terrorist,” who is swept into a military system that controls his every moment. Hooded and shackled, stripped of his clothes and clad in bright orange prisoner overalls, he is shaved, questioned, tortured and beaten before being transported by plane to an unknown destination – which could not provide a greater contrast to his native environment. It is winter, snow is everywhere and the landscape is immense.
After making his escape in a moment of confusion, the rest of the film follows his trek into the snow-clad forests, pursued by helicopters, soldiers and dogs. With no food or water, his journey is one of sheer survival and a spirited bid for freedom. Skolimowski follows the grim, often surprising and occasionally hallucinatory adventures of a man who refuses to die or give up. It could well be a parable of what NATO is confronting in the grim struggle for Afghanistan.
Skolimowski’s visual imagination is stretched to the fullest, with the sheer magnificence of the landscape providing a beautiful, silent backdrop to the character’s heroic battle to stay alive. In a harrowing performance that must have been immensely physically demanding role, Gallo conveys reservoirs of courage and determination without uttering a single word.
Jerzy Skolimowski (born May 5, 1938) is a Polish film director, screenwriter, dramatist and actor. A graduate of the prestigious Polish Film School in Łódź, Skolimowski has directed more than twenty films since his 1960 début Oko wykol (The Menacing Eye). He lived in Los Angeles where he painted in a figurative, expressionist mode and acted occasionally in films. More recently, he began dividing his time between the US and Poland and returned to film making as a writer and director after a 17 year hiatus with Four Nights With Anna (Cztery noce z Anna) in 2008.
Film dépouillé de tout superflu, l'essentiel y est, habité par le jeu remarquable de Vincent Gallo qui, à chaque battements de ses paupières ou entre deux respirations, tente de trouver un sens à sa survie.
Kind of a cool movie. Gallo's performance is great. And while the themes don't really line up all the way, and the directors are interested in different things, I think John Boorman made a deeper, better, more entertaining and more artistic film with "Hell in the Pacific." They are certainly different, but I think Boorman managed to capture everything in "Essential Killing" and much, much more.
And more year-end lists from New York and the Guardian. Plus: Sony vs the New Yorker.
The Jerzy Skolimowski retrospective currently touring the United States is re-introducing American audiences to one of the most free-spirited
Skolimowski at work, from the December 1968 issue of Films and Filming, via chained and perfumed. Jerzy Skolimowski's comeback as a director
With the voyeuristic Four Nights with Anna and the visceral, brutal, beautiful and nearly wordless Essential Killing, Jerzy Skolimowski can
Two films directed by sons of famous British fathers open this weekend, Source Code, by Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie (though Jones is
0537 The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu (Andrei Ujica, Romania) Andrei Ujica has a simple, ingenious idea for this documentary on Romanian
Sofia Coppola's Somewhere (roundup) has won the Golden Lion at this year's Venice Film Festival. Bloomberg reports that jury president Quentin
"There is not a moment of respite for viewers in Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski's 83-minute-long political thriller Essential Killing
This is it, the big final round. You can browse all the previous lineup entries for this year's Toronto International Film Festival (September
‘Essential Killing is a highlight for me for 2011, a year which promises to be one of the best but I have been slow to catch up with in terms of new releases. Even if I had seen a lot more films though… read review
Its nice to know that the “indie” & arthouse crowds are accepting films outside of the norm more and more these days. While stuff that you would except to get a standing ovation like; ‘Tree Of… read review