Monday, March 12, 2007

13 Tzameti (2005)

13 Tzameti is a startling film from start to finish and feels like a touch of Hostel with obvious film noir influences.

While fixing a man's roof, a poor young man named Sebastien (George Babluani) overhears a conversation about a mysterious job that has a very large pay off. When the man dies, Sebastien chances upon a letter that contains a ticket and instructions for the "job" in question. He seizes the opportunity and follows the instructions to an isolated location, not realizing what he is getting himself into. With cops hot on his trail, Sebastien is thrown into a dark underworld where men bet on the lives of others.

The film is captured in black and white, its starkness echoing the nihilism of the subject matter. The audience is immediately thrust in Sebastien's shoes as we experience everything through him. Like him, we are confused yet intrigued as he follows the detailed directions, only to be terrified at where they land him. Alongside Sebastien we discover the high stakes that this particular "job" entails to win the cash prize.

Writer/director Gela Babluani has created a film that is full of tension, dripping from the screen like the sweat from the brows of the players. Like Sebastien, we know very little in the beginning and things seem pretty normal. The tension begins to mount when he realizes what he has become involved in and from that point on never lets up. Actor George Babluani does a fantastic job portraying his character's many emotions, from desperation to confidence to fear and remorse. Babluani was perfectly cast as Sebastien, evoking both innocence and menace. For a film built on the emotions and reactions of characters, Babluani definitely pulls it off.

The film uses music sparingly, again focusing on the tension created by the characters' emotions and reactions. Without music there to cue emotions, my response to the film was more visceral and realistic. The atmosphere became even more foreboding and tense. The no frills approach to music also matched the simple, straight-forward camera work and the plain black and white it was shot in.

13 Tzameti is definitely NOT another Hostel - there are no T & A shots, no gore and the only torture is mental, but it has similar themes and issues. It deals with the haves and the have-nots, the wealthy looking to spend their money on the next big thrill and the exploited lower classes. I enjoyed this social commentary and was rooting for Sebastien the entire time, even when things got a bit twisty at the end in typical film noir fashion.

The less you know going into this film the better. I had only read a synopsis of 13 Tzameti and watched the trailer, but I still think that gave too much away. The whole atmosphere and mood of the film is much more effective and enjoyable if you go in blind.

13 Tzameti is an intense, gripping and tension-filled film, one that will have you wiping the sweat off your brow as you go along for the ride.

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