This quirky little thriller brings to mind Patricia Highsmith's Ripley series, where the perverted morality of the ending requires the reader to take sides with the villain...
by Dan Fainaru
Dir: Attila Gigor. Hungary/Sweden/Ireland 2007. 110 mins.
This quirky little thriller brings to mind Patricia Highsmith's Ripley series, where the perverted morality of the ending requires the reader to take sides with the villain. Here, a gruff pathologist (Anger) takes on the role of a contract killer only to discover he's the patsy – and now he must try to save his own skin.
As macabre as a film should be when its lead character is a forensic pathologist, The Investigator is slow to add an element of mystery and turns out not to be as smooth a ride as its tongue-in-cheek direction and rhythmic montage initially suggests. But its prospects on home ground seem sound, and with Trust Film Sales on board after its recent Hungarian Film Week success (where it won five awards), The Investigator has a good crack at wider distribution abroad and would seem ripe for a Hollywood remake.
Tibor Malkav (Anger) is a 37-year-old heavy-set loner working as a forensic pathologist. He lives alone, and is perhaps a virgin - but even if he isn't, his interest in sex of any variety is negligible. This is a strange man who rarely speaks, chops up cadavers all day long, and, with the exception of a slight but visible facial tic, keeps a blank, expressionless face at all times.
Except, however, when it comes to the slow death of his mother from spinal cancer. A treatment in Sweden might help, but it is far too expensive for him. Cue the arrival of a one-eyed stranger called Cyclops who offers Tibor a fortune to kill a man.
This isn't an unsurmountable problem for a forensic pathologist, but unfortunately, Tibor's mother dies before he can use the cash, and he gets a letter in the post from the same man he murdered suggesting they might be half-brothers. When the police knock on his door, Tibor has no choice but to investigate to try and save his own skin.
Gigor's coolly-directed, nicely-paced picture evolves entirely around this taciturn character whose facial twitch is the only sign of an inner life. Cleverly underplayed by Anger, who more than deserved the acting award in Budapest, he holds an uneven plot together even when the outcome is obvious.
Ultimately, Tibor has designs on the audience's sympathy – by pitting the memory of the crime he committed against the villains responsible for hiring him to do it. The success of the project depends on whether he succeeds.