Partisan, film review: Ariel Kleiman's murky drama is difficult to watch

(15)​ Ariel Kleiman, 94 mins. Starring: Vincent Cassel, Florence Mezzara, Jeremy Chabriel, Esther Blaser-Tokarev

Ariel Kleiman's murky drama is pitched in a netherworld between coming-of-age yarn and thriller, between picaresque fantasy and realist drama. We're not sure where or when it is set. Vincent Cassel plays Gregori, a charismatic and initially sympathetic cult leader type – part Rasputin, part demonic primary-school teacher type – who controls the lives of people in a self-enclosed, inner-city commune.

There are lots of kids here running amok. They're keen on target practice and on joke shootings with paintball guns. Only gradually do we realise that Gregori is bringing them all up to be contract killers.

On one level, this is an Oedipal fable. Alexander (Jeremy Chabriel) is the sensitive but rebellious adolescent who doesn't want to do what the all-controlling patriarch tells him. Kleiman has an eye for poetic imagery but the storytelling style is so oblique and dour that this is a jarring and difficult film to watch.

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