5 September 2013 | sufi-mohamed-1
An Insatiable Modern Film Noir
Grief tourism is an excursion to locations associated with tragedy. Travelers visit sites associated with death and murder. Dark Tourist, directed by Suri Krishnamma, exquisitely examines this fascination with pain in a manner that allows the audience to delve into the mind of a man who uses trauma to connect with others. This film encourages its audience to understand how feelings of loneliness and isolation devour victims who are unable to reach out to people around them.
Michael Cudlitz (Southland, Running Scared) plays Jim Tahna, a security guard whose eagerness for grief tourism goes beyond that of mere fascination with death and destruction. Jim takes a trip to New Orleans, Louisiana to visit sites associated with mass murderer, Carl Marznap, a quietly chilling Pruitt Taylor Vince (Wild at Heart, Constantine). In between locating the places where Carl grew up and slaughtered innocents, Jim meets Betsy, a heartbreakingly stoic Melanie Griffith (Lolita, Working Girl).
Cudlitz has a magnetism about him. He is able to maintain momentum between lucid expectation and crushing vulnerability with mere gestures, his limping step, and an emotive intelligence behind his eyes. Cudlitz plays Jim as a man of many layers whose desperate need to fill the unexplainable void within renders him incapable of sincerity. Jim knows exactly what to say to people and how to say it.
Krishnamma's use of sound allows his audience to make the connection between Jim's insatiable need to bond with others while simultaneously preserving his isolation. The lighting is at times beautiful and accentuates the grotesque themes of the film. Trauma, sexual desire, brutal deaths, and painful memories are highlighted under Krishnamma's artful direction.
The most intimate moments are surprisingly found during the Jim's voice overs, where we watch him go about his day. Paired with rhythmic, repetitive, and chaotic sounds, Jim is carried through the story methodically. This adds to the mounting tension that builds throughout the film as the reasons for Jim's fascination with pain are revealed.
In Dark Tourist, Krishnamma deals with the notion of an audience's fascination with death and sexuality as a form of entertainment. It is as if he is prodding the audience to look inward and discover their own reasons for feeling such satisfaction. The concept of one being a bottomless void, a face, a name, a victim, plays heavily in this orchestrated piece that no provides no simplistic answers to the logic behind a serial killer's motive. Nothing is black and white.
Dark Tourist is a film that calls to mind the thought of what it means to be a victim of a tragic event. It daringly and disturbingly draws the audience to the social dilemma victims of violent and sexual trauma face amongst peers, which is the fear of communication and the tendency to turn a blind eye. Cudlitz's portrayal of Jim during scenes where he is psychologically afflicted is masterful. In one scene Jim and Carl stand outside a prostitute's door. Jim is silent, still, almost trembling with the effort to hold himself against temptation. Here is the moment where change is imminent. Vince's quiet tones and Cudlitz's pregnant pause embodies the issue of trauma buried deeply into the psyche, and the struggle to keep the despair of its existence at bay.
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