In a semi-documentary style narrative, an Italian film group arrives in London to reconstruct a senseless real-life crime committed in 1994. The culprits were two upper-class youngsters, who, on the look-out for action, decided to choose a victim for their games.
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Low budget, raw and at times slightly bewildering film about an Italian film crew making a documentary (or are they researching and making a drama?, it's not entirely clear) about a murder in London. I was drawn into this due mainly to the accurately captured spirit of place of 1990s London. Some very naturalistic performances from some of the (presumably) non-actor interviewees add to the unusual tone.
A self conscious attempt to do something 'interesting' with the docu-drama format. It largely misfires in a messy welter of stagey reportage and even stagier reenactments. There are a few 'interesting' concepts in there somewhere (public appetite for murder, etc.) but for the most part it's a rather cringey dog's dinner of a film.
The homo-pomo aesthetics and ideas ("Nothing is true, everything is permitted") that call back to New Queer Cinema make for an interesting approach. But there are too many threads, themes and styles going on at once that are never fully explored and ultimately lead nowhere. The result is confusing and even slightly offensive. Tom Kalin in his very underappreciated Swoon (1992) tackled similar topics so much better.
Tilda Swinton is not a detective. Neither is director Luca Guadagnino. So why they decided to play around in those roles with a film that is part documentary and part play-acting around what was a very real and abhorrent murder is beyond me. Nothing particularly new is provided to viewers, leaving us with something ultimately disappointing and fairly distasteful IMO (and I laughed my ass off at Meet The Feebles).
Tilda Swinton delivers another remarkably cold performance as high caliber satanist. Tormenting everyday movie-going souls to new levels of contempt. Obviously encouraging to see that time can remarkably shift a directors career, in the case of Guadagnino. Also nice tits. What happened to that guy's willy in the shower?!
Both about the banality of murder and about the undying allure for filmmakers of the act of killing. In one mode, it recounts the reality of two young men caught in a delusional world, in the other it fictionalises through filmmaking the starkness of the murderous act. A worthwhile idea but the filmmaking is obtuse: the reenactments are wincingly bad, the filmmakers agonisingly mannered. A ruefully silly experiment.
A busy and engaging work from Guadagnino. Impressive camerawork throughout and a carefully considered choice of edits all work to create a great sense of mood, yet I felt the film lacking in emotion somewhat.
I find it extremely difficult to rate heavily stylised and experimental films such as The Protagonists, because part of their intention is to work against convention and to defy the standards other works are normally judged by. This... quasi-meta-documentary is definitely weird, uncompromising and fun. Maybe a bit self-indulging and offensive, too-- I don't know. Truth be told, I kinda liked it.