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November 12, 2014

Starz Denver Film Festival 2014 - Killers

killers mo brothers.jpg

Mo Brothers - 2014
Well Go USA Entertainment

Would Michael Powell be shocked if he saw Killers? Would he be upset by the cultural changes that have taken place since Peeping Tom was released in 1960? The connections I'm making with the Mo Brothers' film is twofold. The killers in their film document their murders with digital cameras, with the camera focusing on the victim. While the violence is much more graphic in the newer film, both Powell and the Mo Brothers (Kimo Stamboel and Timo Tjahjanto) work is to be admired for the formal beauty, the impeccable cinematography. The big shift is that in Powell's film, the films of the murders are for personal viewing, while the Mo Brothers characters live at a time when previously private acts are shared over the internet.

Some might argue whether this an exploitation movie with the visual qualities found in a Terrence Malick film, or a blood soaked art film. And if so, would those who profess a love of cinema as an art form run away if not shielding their eyes? Would the mavens of slasher films not notice how every shot is carefully composed? I can imagine the conundrum of some viewers of Killers being similar to that of the critics who took a serious look at Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust, confused as how a movie full of stomach churning images could be so well made. A close up of a single white rose, splattered with blood, sums up the seemingly contradictory impulses at work here.

The film alternates between Tokyo and Jakarta. Nomura is a serial killer, wealthy enough to own a large home in a remote area, with a room designed for torture and murder. His onscreen identity is hidden with a large, white mask. One of his videos is seen by Bayu, a journalist eking out a living following his attempt to reveal the corruption of a high level politician, curiously named Dharma. The two men chat online, with Nomura encouraging Bayu to act upon his anger. While Bayu's murders are loosely based on a sense of righteousness, Nomura's motivations are hazy, without the emotional involvement that spurs Bayu, although he does periodically get caught up in memories of his dead sister.

In addition to the differing reasons for killing, there are the differences in how Nomura and Bayu live. While Bayu lives in a small house crammed with photos on the walls, books and files, Nomura's very large house is spartan, with unsuspecting guests entering a gray fortress void of any furniture or personal belongings. Nomura lives alone, keeping his involvement with the world limited to his pursuit of new prey, while Bayu attempts to reunite with his wife and daughter, and make meaning of his sense of idealism, where money is used to cover up various transgressions. That Killers will likely engender arguments regarding whether it is art or exploitation or simultaneously both is enough reason to give this film serous attention.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 12, 2014 07:57 AM