The Most Dangerous Game France Hatron

in 5th Cluj Transsilvania International Film Festival

by France Hatron

In the 5th edition of the International Film Festival of Transylvania that took place in Cluj, the FIPRESCI jury gave its award to a debut feature film, Tzameti (France – 2005) by a 27-year-old director, Géla Babluani. He also wrote the screenplay, produced the film and directed his own brother, George Babluani.

Sebastien is 20 years old, looks angelic and innocent. He lives in France with an emigrant family who struggles to make ends meet. As a job, Sebastien gets to fix the roof of a house by the sea. A strange couple lives in it. The husband, Jean-François, is addicted to morphine and to alcohol. The wife is younger and rows with him a lot. Working around the house, Sebastien finds out they are planning a big “coup” that should make them earn a lot of money. But Jean-François dies of an overdose and Sebastien decides to secretly replace him. He follows the instructions that were sent to the house a few days before Jean-François’ death. After a risky trip, he gets to the destination, and ends up finding himself in a house lost in the middle of the countryside. From this point, he realizes he has got himself into a very serious and dangerous game from which he might not escape alive. The rules are clear: a bunch of men, standing in a circle, have to shoot their neighbour with a gun not fully loaded, while “Mafia dealers” bet on the survival of their own player. Who will be the last to survive?

This film is structured in two parts. The first one takes place in Jean-François’ house by the sea. The second tells us of the mortal challenge Sebastien is going through in that isolated house lost in the deep countryside. The beginning is not fully convincing: the acting doesn’t seem fully realised and the script remains a bit confused. Therefore, even though the elegant black and white aesthetic raises high expectations, the audience doesn’t know what is coming next. From there, the narative, the shooting process, the script, and George Babliani’s acting gain in intensity.

But what a nightmare, what a suffering process the director puts the audience through! An unbearable situation if it wasn’t for the distance the elegant black and white photography brings to the film. No way to escape the tension: the only choice is to watch the players die or to see them trying to survive and face the next round.

But the horror gets even worse when we realise the coldness and cynicism with which the “businessmen” bet on their “horses”. As if they weren’t men anymore but animals. Human craziness is here pushed to the maximum. The more Sebastien gets into the game and looses his freedom, the more he reveals himself as a criminal player, with a surprising self-control and determination. We inevitably follow him on this road. There is no way to escape the process of identification with this man character as he has, himself, no way to escape the game.

Here is the final paradox: the more the audience is terrified, the more it adheres to this dangerous and perverse manipulation. Tzameti deserved to win the Grand Jury Prize in Sundance and the Luigi de Laurentis Award at the Venice Film Festival.