13 (Tzameti) (2005)
Directed by Gla Babluani
Starring George Babluani
Shot effectively in stark black and white with a slightly rough (at times almost amateurish) feel. Tzameti is a symbolic representaion of mans desire for violence. The thrill of the kill, the buzz of participating in something completely outside of the law where life is cheap and fortunes can be made or lost in a matter of seconds.
Sbastien, a young immigrant earns money from odd jobs. While repairing a roof on a house he overhears a conversation, an old man is awaiting a letter, although no information is given its quite obvious that it will lead to a day or twos work for a great deal of money. There are also other interested parties as far as this letter is concerned. Everyday as soon as the postman has delivered the mail someone takes and checks through it hoping to find the letter.
On the day it finally arrives the old man is first to the box, he takes it straight into his house and runs a bath while preparing to dope himself up. Unfortunately he overdoses and dies in the bath; the letter is blown out of the house and lands with Sbastiens tools. Aware of the old mans death and the chance of a quick buck he hides the letter and decides to follow the instructions within it.
The first half of the film plays out like a spy or crime drama, the instructions include train tickets, hotel bookings, and a telephone call leads to a further trail. Its obvious that whatever the job is, it is highly illegal, maybe drug smuggling, people traffiking, spying etc but the draw of the money and maybe even the thrill of heading into something completely unknown is too much for Sbastien to ignore.
Within a very short space of time he finds out exactly what hes let himself in for, and for all the wanting in the world theres no backing out. Along with twelve other men he takes his place in a circle, each is handed a revolver with one bullet loaded, raising their arms they spin the barrels, aim the pistols at the head of the next in line and wait. A bulb in the centre of the room will light and as per instructions, each man will pull the trigger.
A terrific sense of tension rises and falls constantly during the second part of the film, as each man prepares for the next round of this civilised murder, bored rich men lay hundreds of thousands of euros on the outcome. In between bouts the surviving dropouts and dregs of society drink themselves into a stupor or drug themselves up knowing that within a few minutes they could be joining the mounting pile of corpses.
Rich and poor, greed rules each one, the businessmen with their wagers, the would-be murderers hoping to survive and take the winner's payout. Morality doesnt exist in this atmosphere and for the men like Sbastien, only the prize money, which will help his family greatly and the fear of his own ignominious death keep him going.
Tzameti has won six awards at film festivals including Sundance, the roughness and budget constraints actually help the overall mood, the black and white works marvellously as well, I really couldnt imagine watching it in colour. Tzameti has a timeless feel and is an excellent directorial debut.
Recommended especially if you can catch it in the cinema, it does lose impact on second viewing but thats no real surprise with this type of film. If this has piqued your interest, try and see the original as it is already marked up for a re-make.
BBFC rated 15
R2 dvd released by Revolver, extras include interviews with the director and lead actor.