Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Child 44 and Cizizen X

I noticed a movie is coming out called Child 44 - about a serial killer of children in Stalin's USSR.. I haven't read the novel, though it's said to be good. Although I have seen, a long time ago, a movie called Citizen X, also based on the murders committed by the same man - this scary Chikatilo guy, a teacher. 
I was actually really fond of Citizen X. It was an HBO made-for-Tv movie, one of their better ones, I think. You can see they had a limited budget on sets and costume, but they still did an amazing job - because luckily the Russia at the time was actually a very poorm country and they had to make do with what they had. In the movie there's a scene in which a young officer is supposed to be undercover at a train station, but he is wearing his police coat - which of course makes the lead investigator very upset. As it turns out, that is the boy's only warm coat. So the chief gives him his own (fairly ill-fitting) winter coat. In truth the Russians would wear a lot more clothes, mainly wooly, but okay. That was a lovely point.
The casting and acting is very good. Stephen Rea, always a gem, plays Burakov - a senior medical examiner (hoping that seniority will grant him a two-bedroom apartment for his wife and two children.), who is given the case of this unusual serial occurrence by a colonel Fetisov, played by cold looking, but actually clever and quite eager to do the right thing Donald Sutherland. Also very good is Imelda Staunton as Burakov's wife. It makes me think that when your husband is working on such a gruesome case, better than to put yourself in the field and in danger is to play the wife, learn to cook and rub his feet when he comes home. 
Another oddly good role was by Max von Sydow, whom i usually find to be too pompous for my taste - but he plays the psychologist who invents the psychological profiling for the case - even though he is risking his reputations.
The part that impresses me the most is the slow burn of unfamiliarity of the police with such a case. incredibility is commonplace - often people will not believe someone is capable, but in this case the regime refuses to believe such a thing - a serial killer - is possible in Russia. One of the higher ranks calls it a 'decadent phenomenon of the West'... There is no task-force, there is no psychology, no profiling, no actual interest or dare to take on such difficult case. It is mentioned if a cop pushed something so far and failed, he would have been shot - or vanished without a trace. That is true. But while Americans had to invent all this, and did, mostly for quite sinister reasons (*hkhm*Hoover*hkhm), here it came down to stubborness, wit and method. Burakov worked himself into near psychosis, but did not relent and actually managed to move the department into the next century. There's a scene in which his superior, Fetisov, is promoted to general and Burakov to colonel and Fetisov tell his friend that an FBI expert who deals with these kind of criminal mind is actually lecturing about Burakov...
I remember that the Zodiac killer case got nowhere for lack of communication between agencies and that before that evidence wasn't considered all that important in investigations - it was just clues and subject to the investigator's judgement. I imagine just as many crimes didn't get solved as those that got solved falsely. We are still a while to go, but I love movies like these, where you can see change made for the better. You can see some positions are so shaky, any change at all threatens them.

I imagine Child 44 will be similar, with more anti-communist regime propaganda and all the roles played by very handsome young people.. Though I'm looking forward to seeing it. It's twenty years between them.