Sep 29, 2015

Utopia's not what it used to be.


Grade: B+

Director: Ariel Kleiman

Screenplay: Kleiman,  Sarah Cyngler (Deeper than Yesterday)

Cast: Vincent Cassel (Black Swan), Jeremy Kleiman

Rating: NR

Runtime: 98 min.

by John DeSando

A sequestered commune is the setting for Ariel Kleiman’s disturbing story about 11-year-old Alexander (Jeremy Chabriel), whose father, Gregori (Vincent Cassell) teaches him a life to be divorced from mainstream life, except when Alexander efficiently murders for money. The joy of the communers juxtaposed with their terrible assignments points up the film’s allegorical comment on the danger of isolationism.

The film points out the ironic Christ-like parallel as Gregori carries wood across his shoulders to begin building a home for his children and harem. The contrast between his love for his life and the horrid tasks for the children is obvious and a telling comment on the dangers of messianic obsession.

A couple of the young boys, including Alexander, rebel against Alexander’s tyranny and become objects of deep concern for Gregori. Even an unauthorized candy bar could be trouble. Mostly, though, it’s the natural contrariness of youths, exacerbated by the limiting confines of a closed community, that leads Alexander to begin straying.

While Kleiman leaves out the spiritual development  of the commune, especially with so many women complying, and definitely leaves the audience hanging at the end, the film is successful showing a productive closed society, a  Utopia  if you will, the downside appearing as a dark stain not easily expunged.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at