by Tori Hanes
Two full hours of grit, sweat, and anxiety from all participants, both in the film and out. That’s what you can expect from the latest by director Jerome Salle.
Kompromat is one of those unnerving instances for reviewers where your technical training and study of film confuses your internal perception. The film excels where it is meant to: it’s tense to the point of unbearable anxiety. It’s forcibly eye-opening, and it’s nauseatingly realistic. Lead actor Gilles Lellouche gives a standout performance as a grounded, gritty, desperate, resourceful anti-hero. The story, while seemingly convenient at times, builds masterfully while swerving down winding thoroughfares.
The viewing experience itself can be defined as less than pleasant. While Salle succeeds at delivering a hard-to-watch movie, he also creates… a hard-to-watch movie.
With something so viscerally unsettling, you might expect your worldview to be heightened as a result of the painstaking two hours spent. Kompromat doesn’t exactly succeed in this – it paints the illustration of a wrongly accused straight, white, French man in Russia’s highly unprogressive society. All facts and facades we’ve seen at play before. So it begs the question, what is the point?
The point, quite bluntly, seems to be tension. Building it, releasing it, savoring it. If the film makes you break a sweat, the crew can pat themselves on the back.
Obviously, there are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. Draping the background with a seemingly pressing political story convolutes the film’s actual intention. If Kompromat could be obvious in its goal, a more palpable connection between audience and film could be forged. Instead, there seems to be some thrashing in the netting Salle creates.
While Kompromat excels at holding a consistent fever pitch, it allows itself too much freedom. The two-hour runtime feels like a dumbbell lowering suffocatingly onto your chest. The film’s consistency in story and performance through the overly long run is a testament to Salle’s command of scene and pace but shows a streak of overindulgence.
If your New Year’s resolution is to elevate your heart rate for 2 hours at a time, pick this up. If breaking a sweat while sitting on your couch isn’t appealing, you may want to skip out on Kompromat.