Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Panorama Europe ’16: The Cleaner
is a dirty job, but some underpaid ex-con has to do it. Tomáš would be that
lucky prole. He cleans up after crime scenes, suicides, natural deaths, and the
occasional deceased pet. That was how he first came to the apartment of the
shopgirl he pined for, but obsession kept him coming back—secretly. Despite the
obvious voyeurism, viewers should refrain from making the usual assumptions
during Peter Bebjak’s The Cleaner (trailer here), which screens as
part of Panorama Europe 2016.
is solitary work, frequently requiring a face mask, but it suits Tomáš as well
as it would suit anyone. He does not have much human contact, aside from his
awkward sessions with a state-mandated head-shrinker. However, we quickly
deduce he is the product of an unnurturing environment. In fact, his mother is
currently serving a prison sentence for a crime in the Burning Bed tradition. He is just not equipped to put the moves on
Kristína, no matter how many candles he buys from her store. However, he can
stare at her for hours from her closet.
Kristína’s exploitative deadbeat brother is more trouble for her than her
peeping stalker, especially when he pimps her out to abusive perverts to cover
his gambling debts. It is more than Tomáš expected to see. In fact, things get
so desperate, he will be forced to intervene.
Cleaner is an unsettling
film in many ways, but it is much more complicated than an invasion-of-privacy
thriller, like Sleep Tight or Ratter. Bebjak and co-screenwriter Peter
Gasparik develop real relationships, albeit significantly unhealthy ones. Ultimately,
its chills are of an existential rather than horrific nature.
Tomáš, Noël Czuczor is such a cold fish it is hard to fully take stock of his
work, but that is a rather appropriate within the film’s dramatic context.
Rebeka Poláková’s Kristína is also somewhat “difficult,” but it is also quite harrowing
to watch what she endures. Still, she is not a stereotypically passive victim.
When they finally share proper scenes together, the chemistry is believably
is sinister enough for genre fans to appreciate Bebjak’s
command of mood and atmosphere, but straight enough for respectable patrons to
attend is screenings without apologies. It is different, in mostly a creepy
good way. Recommended for adventurous cineastes and cult film connoisseurs, The Cleaner screens this Friday (5/20)
at MoMI, as part of this year’s Panorama Europe.
Labels: Panorama Europe '16, Slovakian Cinema