Magazine article Screen International

'Jack': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Jack': Review

Article excerpt

Dir/scr: Elisabeth Scharang. Austria. 2015. 95 mins

"Once a murderer, always a murderer?" That's the philosophical question underpinning Jack, an accomplished, quietly compelling portrait of a convicted killer and whether he can escape the long shadows of his past or the expectations of a society both fascinated and repelled by his actions. Writer/director Elisabeth Scharang takes a rigorously unsensational approach to true events. She invites the audience to make its own judgement on the true nature of killer Jack Unterweger. Was his eager embrace of rehabilitation genuine or merely a clever act?

A complex central performance from Johannes Krisch maintains the film's air of ambiguity even as a character study develops into a murder case. Domestic interest should be high when the film is released in Austria in September but the lack of familiarity with Unterweger and the subject matter could be a challenge in other territories making Jack a title more likely to attract substantial Festival attention rather than major theatrical sales.

Unterweger (Krisch) spent fifteen years in jail for the murder of a young woman one snowy, winter's evening. Early scenes depict him as soft-spoken, domineering and coldly calculating. Actor Johannes Krisch has the cruel features and killer cheekbones of a Willem Dafoe or a Rudolf Nureyev. His manner is chilling and his ability to control accomplice Charlotte is entirely believable.

Unterweger spends his time in prison reading, writing poetry and preparing for a release in which he will mercilessly pursue his desire to be famous. He has shown no remorse for his killing. Soon, he has seduced an older woman who pays for his cavernous apartment, he has acquired a publisher for his poems and is dressing like some Tom Wolfe popinjay, doing photo-shoots for magazines and preparing to embrace his status as a media darling. …

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