“There’s a killer lurking inside each of us,” asserts one of the participants in Michal Kosakowski’s documentary-cum-thought experiment Zero Killed (2011). In 1996 Kosakowski made a series of short films based on the murder fantasies of a handful of people from a variety of backgrounds. The only rule was that each person must act in his or her fantasy, either as victim or killer. More than a decade on, the director interviewed his subjects about their experiences of the initial project. These interviews are interspersed with grabs from the original ‘murder films.’ The result is uncomfortably fascinating.
The subjects appear to enter into these simulations of torture, bashing, shooting and slashing with relish—a couple indeed seem slightly unhinged (especially the man who admits to having hit his daughter on several occasions). From reminiscences about their filmed fantasies, the participants move on to larger questions addressing the meaning of ‘evil,’ the human potential for violence, killing in a wartime context, high school massacres, media desensitisation and the justification of torture in interrogation.
Watching these violent simulations and listening to the motivations behind them is a strange experience, more disturbing in a way than viewing a violent horror film, where not only do you know it’s fake, but also that it has been devised on some level as a work of imagination. In Zero Killed, the link between participants and subject matter in these short films is so direct that the boundary between fantasy and reality becomes blurred. Fake reality; real fantasy. Adding another level of bizarreness to the viewing experience was the fact that I recognised one of the subjects as someone I’d been at art school with years ago (particularly unexpected considering art school was in Australia and Zero Killed is a Swiss film). Fortunately, he was in a minority of actors who chose to be victim rather than perpetrator!
Kosakowski’s seemingly perverse exercise brings to light the sobering notion that in a society stripped of laws, regulations and basic morality, life is pretty cheap.
Zero Killed showed at the 2012 Sydney Underground Film Festival, Factory Theatre, Sydney, September 6-9