Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

"SK1 at its best, is an examination of doubt."

Frédéric Tellier’s intense thriller SK1 (L’Affaire SK1) starts with a fitting quote from novelist James Jones (author of From Here To Eternity) asking about the origin of "great evil". SK1, named for the first serial killer identified through DNA analysis in France, is based on journalist Patricia Tourancheau’s book about the case, Guy Georges: La Traque.

Convicted murderer Guy Georges, known as the "Beast of Bastille" due to his 11th arrondissement hunting ground, brutally raped and killed seven women over a period of years in the 1990s before a complicated investigation led to his arrest.

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Nathalie Baye is Maître Frédérique Pons, the lawyer who agreed to represent the man nobody wanted to defend. She "doesn't believe in the Devil," and Baye's sensitive portrayal makes it clear that there are no monsters, only people, even if they commit the most heinous crimes.

Tellier brings us up-close to the investigators, especially Franck Magne, nicknamed Charlie (Raphaël Personnaz), a young inspector whose work life and because he is human, his private one too, is haunted by Georges' horrific crimes from the day he starts his job at the desired address 36, Quai des Orfèvres, the headquarters of the Paris criminal police.

Olivier Gourmet is Charlie's older, experienced colleague Bougon. The two men like to sit on the roof overlooking the heart of Paris. "That's the reward," Bougon says of the beautiful spot where they come to cry or scream or celebrate in reaction to the unwholesome world below. Together with their captain, Carbonel, (Michel Vuillermoz) we see the team follow many wrong leads, while more young, pretty, female victims lose their lives. Tellier makes their frustration palpable when competing investigators aren't sharing their results or when an Egyptian footprint freezes the progress of police work. Charlie's home life as it is shown is frustrating. His wife Louise (Norah Lehembre) gets to give birth, take a bath, and complain in flat, demonstrative scenes that do not move forward the rest of the action.

One of Georges' victims managed to escape and the re-staging of the attack on her is the most terrifying moment, mainly because of the calm language and reasoning used to make the woman comply and the spotty knowledge we as audience have at this point.

Tellier's feature debut takes great care with the minutiae of the proceedings without losing cinematic momentum. The decision to jump back and forth in time between the investigation years starting in 1991 and the trial in 2001 is effective and together with Adama Niane's fine performance as Guy Georges leads us to the questions we are supposed to ask. Can anything good come from so much inflicted pain? Can the killer help to bring closure to the families? What about his own early abandonment, first by his mother, then by society? SK1 at its best, is an examination of doubt.

SK1 (L’Affaire SK1) will be screening at the 20th Anniversary of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York with Frédéric Tellier and Nathalie Baye scheduled to participate in a Q&As.

Reviewed on: 05 Mar 2015
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Drama about the multi-year hunt, arrest, and trial of serial killer Guy Georges — nicknamed The Beast of Bastille.

Director: Frédéric Tellier

Writer: David Oelhoffen, Frédéric Tellier

Starring: Raphaël Personnaz, Nathalie Baye, Olivier Gourmet, Michel Vuillermoz, Adama Niane, Christa Théret, Thierry Neuvic, William Nadylam, Marianne Denicourt, Chloé Stefani, François Rabette, Anthony Paliotti, Olivier Balazuc, Syrus Shahidi, Norah Lehembre

Year: 2014

Runtime: 120 minutes

Country: France

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