"The Criminal Man" is the name of Dimitri Mamulia's film, which was shot in 2019. The director already sets the mood and anticipation with this title. The main character is identified and vilified by the author. In the fight between good and evil, the side is certain. It is clear for the audience from the beginning who they will be dealing with. They do not have to wait long to meet evil.
The film begins with a murder episode, witnessed by the main character Giorgi Meskhi (Giorgi Petriashvili). In general, he is a watchful character who often appears wherever he is, where something wrong, dramatic happens - whether it is a crime scene or someone's private, secret life.
Dimitri Mamulia makes almost the entire film a process of observation from the villain's side. The subject of Giorgi Meskhi's interest is the observation and study of evil, tracking its results, tracking the participants and victims of evil. He tries to find out the nature of the evildoers. For this reason, a famous maniac steals murderers’ files from the archive and gets acquainted with them, listens to news about "famous" murderers and the murdered ones on TV, buys weapons, scares children, and then observes how fear works. He goes to gathering places where people who are devoid of hope and joy get together, where only despair nestles.
Every relationship in the film is conflicted. Moreover – dramatic and tragic – of mother and child, human and animal, husband and wife, coworkers, children. The authors of the film have chosen the angle of the world contemplation, where everything appears distorted, even human faces.
The director engaged non-professional actors in the film, types that will intensify the story. However, the images of all of them in the film become even more grotesque. As if they caught them in extremely bad condition and captured them on the movie screen. The evil eye sees people not as individuals, but as formless ghosts, beings that represent nothing and cannot change anything in this world.
There are three murders in the film that have no motive. They kill because they must kill. Because the environment seen by the main character and, therefore, created by the author of the film, is a killer – deprived of light, exhausted, loveless.
The audience also travels for two whole hours in this dark world, where most of the people have physical defects for some reason, some have mental problems, where hawks and dogs die, children become mentally and physically ill, and the villain steps between them and goes to the logical finale.
"Murder seems to enter him like a virus," says the director about the main character of his film. The emergence of this virus on the path of "cognition" of evil and then the hero’s death is natural.
The main character at some point switches from observation to action. The audience gets this expectation from the very beginning and soon becomes convinced that Giorgi Meskhi turns from a witness, observer, listener, researcher into a murderer. He will kill because that is the nature of evil. When you travel into its depths without distancing yourself, you also become a sharer of its laws. The main character also obeys this law of the "genre."
"I have always been interested in this topic – how illness enters a person. Something mental, which can destroy his soul, identity and how it is connected with crime," says Dimitri Mamulia in one of the interviews.
They were engaged in similar searches in the Russian cinema in the 1990s. In the Russian films of that period were created ugly, dark, cinematic worlds devoid of hope and goodness, unprecedented tragedies, which depicted the so-called "Chernukha" ("Little Vera", "My Name is Harlequin," "Dear Elena Sergeevna," etc.). These films offered nothing, either in form or content, but depression and despair. Whatever expectations there are for art and works of art in general were virtually ignored. Many Russian films of that period turned the audience on a kind of vicious circle in the vortex of anti-aesthetics, anti-beauty, anti-catharsis.
In some sense, Dimitri Mamuli also creates such an atmosphere in his film, which can be justified by the desire to "research" evil and get to know it. It was important for the authors of the film to see how evil looks "from the inside," in what form, in what color it manifests itself, which crushes you and makes you want to turn away from it.
It becomes clear at the same time that researching evil by only walking in the dark, without distancing yourself from it, is like playing with fire, which, sooner or later, turns the researcher into a murderer. Swimming in this vortex leaves no way back. The audience is also the companion of the villain in such a journey, who at the end of the road finds what was already familiar to him at the beginning of the road.
It can be repeated that evil is bad, it is always necessary, but this "discovery" should lead the audience to something new and interesting. On the other hand, the audience of "Villain" is depressed after each episode and cannot emotionally relate to the heavy mood that it brings from episode to episode and which does not give it anything. In other words, “evil wins in the movie.”
In the last episodes, bright shots cannot balance the darkness and sick environment in which the authors keep us for two hours. Shots and sometimes whole episodes are often unnecessarily long. The authors seem to be testing the audience's patience - how long they will endure, not turning off the film or running away from the cinema.
Sometimes even the director wants to escape from this world. The views shot in the open space of the film are extremely beautiful (cameramen – Anton Gromov and Alisher Khamidkhojaev) and allow us to take a breath, but then they take us back to the gray, heavy, villainous reality filled with dirt and despair.
Most of the action in the film takes place in Chiatura, the miners’ town. It must be said that a strong cliché has emerged in relation to Chiatura. When the authors talk about hard life, existential crises, social problems, injustice and poverty, they somehow develop the action in Chiatura. In this town they represent the heavy, extremely poor, gray and depressing environment to express their point.
However, the other Chiatura, its inexplicable mysticism, uniqueness, strange and inimitable beauty, unlike any other town, cannot be seen in any movie. Nor do the characters of the mentioned films resemble us, in most cases, the people of Chiatura, people leading a difficult life, but full of joy and humor. In relation to Chiatura, cinema has solidified itself in one stereotype and it should not be rejected by anything, it should not see another part of the town.
However, evil has many of these layers which often act in the name of good, making it difficult to guess. But nothing like that happens in Dimitri Mamulia's film. Here we are dealing with declared evil. Nowhere does it attempt to fit any other mask. Here, darkness begets darkness, murder – murder, because evil has no other consequences, no matter what you look for. The main character also stops this search and wishes to be reborn in a big, bright world, where the sun shines abundantly and the arms of his mother warm him. It may warm the hero, but it fails to warm the audience.