Partisan: bleak yet beautiful

Jun 04, 2015

Eleven-year-old Alexander is a sweet-natured young boy growing up in a secluded community on the outskirts of an impoverished town in this powerfully bleak exploration of childhood.

Hidden from the world, Alexander, his mother and a handful of women and children live a seemingly peaceful existence under the watchful eye of Gregori, the community’s self-appointed patriarch and protector.

Naïve and unassuming, the boy has learnt everything he knows about the world beyond his community from Gregori and, like all the children in the compound, he is training to become a killer for hire so that he can protect those he loves from the violence of the outside world. But when a new family arrives, it sparks a series of strange events which leads Alexander to question what he’s been taught – ultimately putting him on a collision course with Gregori.

Directed by Ariel Kleiman, this Australian film is a gritty coming-of-age drama which explores the intense psychological influence parents can wield over their children and the chaos that can ensue when those children become independent.

Jeremy Chabriel (below) delivers a powerful performance as Alexander, a young boy who, in questioning Gregori, must also question his own sense of belonging. Alexander is an incredibly complex character, and Chabriel approaches his role with wisdom beyond his years.


French actor Vincent Cassel (A Dangerous Method, Black Swan) is equally impressive as Gregori, a charismatic, manipulative narcissist whose domineering personality is pushed to breaking point as the film progresses. Cassel and Chabriel have a natural chemistry which allows them to bring a sense of authenticity to their roles as “father” and son.

Alexander’s evolution from immature child to assertive young man plays out across a backdrop of abandoned buildings, darkened tunnels, mountainous ranges and broken homes, with the cinematography winning a Sundance Special Jury Award.

Partisan is both depressingly bleak and starkly beautiful. Kleiman leads the audience through this complicated world, expertly building tension and setting the scene for an inevitable final showdown which, rather disappointingly, fails to provide the closure this film demands.

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