More Thoughts on Simon Killer (2012)

Almost 24 hours after experiencing this juggernaut of a film, I am still reeling from the intense aftershocks of Simon Killer. There are several (and spoiler-heavy) ideas I’d like to explore further, and I do welcome any messages/comments you may have!

First: the costume design. I know, I know – I’m not typically the kind of person to pay attention to this, and I am not remotely a fashionista in my real life. But I couldn’t help noticing that, for most of the film, Simon wore colorful hoodies (red, blue, etc) under a black jacket. This seemed to be his “standard” outfit. In the handful of scenes in which he pursues Marianne’s clients (whom he is blackmailing), however, he dresses differently, often like the men – whether in a nice pea coat or more formal wear.

This can either be taken as just Simon dressing differently, that in these instances he is not the person he typically is, by acting out in such a bizarre and manipulative manner. Though I think it is another layer of the film’s overall motif of men exploiting and mistreating women; by literally using his prostitute/girlfriend Marianne as a tool to generate wealth for himself, he is arguably doing the same thing Marianne’s clients are; exploiting her for his own selfish needs. This establishes a strong thematic parallel, and provides us with an earlier cue that Simon has the potential for some real damage.

Second: Simon and Sophie at the club. This excellent scene, appropriately dubbed by LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean,” begins with Simon doing his slightly awkward, but believable and frequently-seen dance moves, as he pulls Sophie toward him to dance. For a solid four minutes or so, the camera stays in place as we him bop around, as Sophie moves in and out of the shot, and eventually Sophie’s roommate joins them and Simon begins to make out with her.

This moment in the film is so particularly striking because we presumed from the opening monologue and Simon’s apparent heartbreak that he’s a good guy and wouldn’t pull anything weird just to get close to a girl – especially when he claims he himself was cheated on. But in this scene we are stuck watching what we don’t want to see, Simon cheating on Marianne, and even then Simon kind of cheats on Sophie by kissing her roommate. It is unsettling to see how easy it is for him to move from woman to woman, especially when Simon is a character whose side we’ve been on this whole time.

Third: Simon at the airport. I still am not sure what to make of this scene, and will be paying close attention when I rewatch this film. When Simon is being questioned by customs at the airport, not only are we shocked to find out he has been there over 90 days (as we’ve only spent a few days with him, as far as we can tell) but his usual story of being a fresh graduate of neuroscience has flipped to Sophie’s experience, as a student of French literature.

Like with the costume design, this could simply be a blip – it could show that Simon has lost his cool, he is so mentally confounded that he has lost recollection of his own experiences and is purely temporal in his consciousness.

My opinion, however, is that it is another instance of him thinking on his feet and making things up – this is just the first time he’s claimed this story, that’s why he’s so nervous. For all we know, his story he’s been monologuing all this time is just as phony, and we the audience just take for granted that our narrator and protagonist is telling the truth.

Anyway, just wanted to share these thoughts with you all! Anybody else see Simon Killer? Any specific scenes or themes stick out to you which you’d like to discuss?

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Simon Killer (2012)

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: thank God for Spring Breakers. If I hadn’t seen that PCP trip of a film in theaters, I would have never been exposed to the trailer for Simon Killer, a knockout psychosexual thriller in the proud tradition of Blue Velvet and Shame.

Told almost as a modern-day version of the novel In a Lonely PlaceSimon Killer places us with a young American man fresh upon arrival in Paris (or so he says). He is struggling with getting over his ex, and falls in love with a French prostitute, also with (literal) scars. As seen in the trailer (so no spoilers), the two devise a scheme to blackmail her clients for cash. This doesn’t quite work out.

The narrative, though, is secondary to the extraordinary and wholly disturbing vision that is presented to us. The sex scenes, while erotic, are almost joyless, with Simon’s lovers’ heads often out of the shot, giving us a view of Simon leering at their nude bodies, or forcing them to turn around and face the opposite way, further dehumanizing his sexual partners.

The unique experience of this film is further developed through the contrast of highly cinematic, “fake”-feeling camera work with exceptionally neorealistic dialogue and acting. The very long shots feel as if we could be there watching live, but with the slight disconnect of a perfectly framed angle, or smooth turns bridging opposite characters or ends of the room.

The focal point of the film, of course, is Simon himself, delivered in a fantastic performance by Brady Corbet (who you may recognize from Thirteen). He is nearly impossible to take your eyes off of, and gives a remarkably rich and believable portrayal of a womanizer, criminal, and yes, killer.

Simon Killer is also extraordinary in how much it takes us by surprise – we rarely get films, either studio or independent, which places us with your everyday man who has the potential to kill. Recalling earlier events, I can now look back and see how we were given clues that Simon could be a criminal all along, but an audience is often unwilling to accept that our narrator, our door to this experience, is capable of such terrible acts. We share in his experience but don’t want to bear the guilt of his actions. The film lets off a chilling conclusion and a sense of fluidity, that these events have likely happened before and will probably happen again.

Simon Killer is a shining (?) dark spot in a year of film that was largely optimistic and happy-go-lucky. It offers a very fresh take on the traditional narrative and gives us an unforgettable cinematic experience.