DVD Review: Simon Killer

Published on September 21st, 2013 in: Current Faves, DVD, DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews, Movie Reviews, Movies, Reviews |

By Less Lee Moore


How long has it been since you’ve come across the term “”mise-en-scène” (film students excepted). If most of the film reviews you read come from websites and blogs, it’s probably been a while. Although mise-en-scène, which “refers to everything that appears before the camera and its arrangement—composition, sets, props, actors, costumes, sounds, and lighting” is applicable to every film, it’s the gestalt of these individual aspects that differentiate a regular movie from the work of an artist in full command of the medium. Simon Killer belongs, wholeheartedly, in the latter category.

The framing and editing in Simon Killer are meticulous, thanks to writer/director Antonio Campos and cinematographer Joe Anderson. So is the lighting and sound design. There is not one wasted image, word, or sound in the film. Everything has meaning.

Yet you will not feel overwhelmed. Simon’s life feels mundane; nothing really happens. His story of how and why he broke up with his ex-girlfriend sounds like one we’ve heard before, as does his nebulous plan to figure out what he wants to do next. The camera follows him from behind as he listens to music through his headphones, walks around Paris, and looks at paintings. His interactions with people are awkward and impersonal. The film progresses at a languid, repetitive pace.

Campos utilizes this method to dull the senses, allowing us to let our guard down, so that when Simon’s carefully constructed life starts to crumble, we don’t notice until it’s too late.

As for that mise-en-scène, it’s challenging to describe it. To deconstruct it is rewarding, but it also demystifies, and there is plenty of mystery to enjoy in Simon Killer. Obscured faces of characters only tell us part of what is going on. The repeated red and blue colored strobe light effect feels like a hallucination and a warning, but of what?

It’s a movie as banal as real life but at the same time, as nerve-racking as an anxiety attack. With a title like Simon Killer, we know that something ugly lies beneath the surface but even when we see it, we can’t or don’t want to believe it. The idea that a person like Simon could be someone we know and that we, too, could be fooled, is frightening, like a poison seeping slowly into the bloodstream.

Simon Killer was released on DVD on September 17 through IFC Films.

The special features on Simon Killer are unusual and innovative. “Antonio Campos and the Case of the Conscious Camera” is a cinephile’s dream and sheds light on the process behind this film as well as filmmaking itself. The “Behind the Scenes” featurette is like an experimental film about the movie itself. “Conversations with Moms” is one of the best featurettes I’ve seen on any film and raises the bar for “special features.”

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