Sebastian a young man has decided to follow instructions intended for someone else without knowing where they will take him.. Studio: Uni Dist Corp (music) Release Date: 02/13/2007 Starring: George Babluani Pascal Bonga... more »rd Run time: 86 minutes« less
"First time director, Gela Babluani's film, shot in stark black and white, has deservedly won several prestigious awards, including the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. "13 Tzameti" is a very tightly constructed film where nothing is wasted yet everything feels completely real and natural. The cast is uniformly excellent and the cinematography helps to focus the viewer on the hard little world the film creates. Watching it is an overwhelmingly tense experience and it's difficult to imagine anyone not being completely engrossed.
If you're looking at this page, it's probably going to be hard not to discover some of the key elements of this film's plot. Too bad. I think the experience of watching it would be enhanced if you were able to see it with the same lack of knowledge the main character has about the situation he plunges into. I'd recommend you stop reading now, get the film and watch it before reading anything else. A word of caution though: the violence in the film is particularly disturbing because of its context.
If you want to know more, here are some details without giving away too much. The story involves a 22 year old manual labourer (superbly played by an actor who I'm guessing is related to the director since they share the same surname) who is struggling to help his family make ends meet when he finds an envelope containing a train ticket along with some information that's possibly connected to a large sum of money. The envelope belonged to the man whose house he was repairing and who died before paying our protaganist for his work. The young man decides to pretend he's the dead man and unwittingly descends into a nightmarish world - a world which shows the absurdity of the human condition as well as serving as a metaphor for how the poor and desperate can be dehumanized by the rich and powerful.
This is a great film and I strongly recommend it."
A philosophically dark, emotionally intense, mesmerizing thr
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 02/14/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"13 Tzameti is an outstanding, emotionally visceral film from first-time director Gela Babluani, a gripping, mesmerizing tour de force of cinematic expression that collars you in an ever-tightening noose of nervous tension and quickly engulfs you completely in its dark atmosphere. It's so rare for a film to come along and actually succeed at putting you on edge - 13 Tzameti, though, truly delivers the goods. It's not hard to see why the film garnered the award for Best First Feature at the Venice Film Festival and walked away with the World Cinema Jury Prize at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.
I'm not going to go into detail in terms of the plot, as the film is much more effective if you the viewer descend alongside the main character into the depths of civilized depravity. It starts innocently enough, with young Sebastien (George Babluani) doing some repair work on a certain gentleman's roof. While he is working, he overhears this man talking about a letter he is expecting, a letter detailing an opportunity to make a great deal of money. Fate would seemingly have it that this letter would fall into the hands of Sebastien, and he makes the decision to pursue its mysterious promise himself, despite the fact he has no clue what it relates to. (As an immigrant, struggling to take care of his family, he decides to take the risk.) All he finds in the envelope is a train ticket and a hotel ticket, but these start him on a journey filled with cryptic clues, clandestine movements, and deepening mystery. At the end of that journey, when he finally realizes just what he has gotten himself in to, he has no choice but to play everything out. Play is the operative word here because Sebastien finds himself to be a player in a high-stakes game of chance, a game in which the losers pay the ultimate price. As the number of players shrinks and the stakes rise with each round, the intensity of each succeeding moment approaches levels rarely seen - especially recently - in cinema.
On the most basic level, the plot isn't all that complicated, but director Gela Babluani builds his story upon a deep foundation of nuance, subtlety, and philosophical meaning - conjuring up some poignant insight into human nature in the process. There's definitely an existential aspect to the whole story. At one point, when the climax really begins to build, one character implores his player to approach the game philosophically - and I feel he could just as easily be speaking to the audience when he says this.
The cinematography of 13 Tzameti is well-nigh perfect. It's always a joy to see a director eschew color for black and white, and the stark medium of the latter is all but demanded by the noir-ish atmosphere and stark philosophical implications of the story. It is difficult to believe this is director Gela Babluani's first feature film because he seems to have established control over every aspect of every shot. This is the kind of movie-making that would warm the cockles of Alfred Hitchcock's heart (not that I'm comparing Babluani to Hitchcock, of course).
The DVD comes with an impressive array of special features, most of which further illuminate the powerful messages conveyed in this multi-layered film. Even the deleted scenes contribute to your understanding of the film - but not so much as the interviews with director Gela Babluani and actors Georges Babluani and Aurelien Recoing. I was essentially blown away by Recoing's incredibly detailed observations and insights into his character and the film itself. He plays a somewhat savage character in the film, but Recoing sounds as if he could easily be teaching film criticism at some prestigious university. Even more insight into the film is provided by director Gela Babluani as he discusses the kind of oppressive life his family left in Soviet Georgia in order to enjoy the unknown freedoms offered by France. That experience, as he indicates, definitely played a part in his vision for 13 Tzameti. Additional insight into the game itself is provided by the "testimony of a survivor." I was expecting to see some broken-willed man bewailing the horror of the game, but the subject of this fascinating interview seems to live for the danger and excitement of his obsession. The DVD also comes with a short film called Sunday's Game that correlates extremely well (albeit with much more shock value) with the contents of the feature film.
Without a doubt, 13 Tzameti is one of the most gripping, intense, and memorable films I've seen in quite a long time. It's dark, cynical nature won't appeal to some individuals, but those who feel compelled to plunge the depths of man's inhumanity and like their thrillers truly intense will be amply rewarded by the power and depth of this film."
You Will Be "Tzameti" Which Means "13": Fascinating and Inte
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 05/05/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Tzameti" means "13" in the language of Georgia, European country where Géla Babluani, director of this fascinating film, is born. In "13 Tzameti" you see Sébastien, 22-year-old Georgian immigrant living somewhere in France (played by George Babluani, director's brother) struggling for his and his family's livelihood. One day Sébastien accidentally obtains a recciept of hotel reservation and a one-way ticket to Paris, and he decides to use it, knowing that it belongs to someone else, who was talking about big money. What Sébastien did not know is that its real destination is a remote mansion where the world's strangest and deadliest `game' is going to be held.
After reading the film's curious story, some might remember Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's "Intacto," but actually "Tzameti", shot in black and white and with the minimum amount of dialogues, reminded me of the classic European films like Roman Polanski and Louis Malle. "Tzameti" slowly builds up the tension with carefully shot scenes and taut editing, and its pure tension reaches the highest when it finally introduces the `game' that is done with ritualistic accuracy. The cold, matter-of-factness of the game makes a great contrast with the haggard faces of Sébastien.
Some may think "Tzameti" needs a different ending. I am not sure if the present one is the best way to conclude the story which is far from predictable. Perhaps we will know the answer when a Hollywood remake is made (yes, they do ... again). At the time of writing, Géla Babluani is scheduled to direct it himself in 2008.
"Tzameti" defines easy categorization, but I can say its attractive photography of the bleak world and the undiluted intensity without showing blood is something you rarely see. It is truly a refreshing experience."
John Farr | 07/18/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This nail-biting existential thriller is based on actual incidents involving murder and high-rolling bettors. Filmed in stark, pristine black-and-white, "13 Tzameti" builds suspense first around Sébastien's journey to a series of rendezvous points, the end result of which he is clueless about. Meanwhile, he's being tailed by a group of undercover cops, for reasons that are equally opaque. Babluani turns this cryptic game of cat and mouse into a running nightmare of cold-blooded tension. If you're in the mood for chilling suspense, place your bet on "13 Tzameti.""
This movie exercise tension......and it hurts.
Jenny J.J.I. | That Lives in Carolinas | 04/27/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
""13" is a wonderfully economical thriller, clocking in at a friendly 95 minutes, which starts off slow and gentle, then gradually ricochet its tension towards the end. The main character Sébastien (played by the director's brother George Babluani) is a typical hard working roofer struggling to put food on the table for his family, so when he overhears conversations of easy Euro while toiling on his employer's roof his curiosity is naturally stirred. But before he knows what is happening he finds himself stuck in the middle of the French countryside, face to face with a ring of clandestine gamblers who bet on human lives for fun. Unable to back out, Sebastian then embarks on the ultimate game of chance, as he is forced into a 13 man Russian Roulette playoff where only one will survive. Each round has less men, more bullets and higher stakes. Sébastien's urgent need to escape rises along with the chances of his demise as he is forced to participate in stripping away more competition.
"13 Tzameti" is filmed on black and white stock which at first glance could be dismissed as an attempt to make an art house feature. However, the black and white presentation instead works to lessen the violence with grey blood and thus draws us to focus on the characters and the game from their perspective, where killing becomes a means to an end (and a way to make some money). Each character's convincing performance makes the events more real and while the bodies are cleared, you are left to reflect on the question of whether you can take another man's life or have yours taken.
Whether or not these games are real, the inhumanity of the protagonists, and the awfulness of the situation that Sebastian finds himself in are totally believable. Babluani's brilliant direction lays groundwork for the story itself to build the tension naturally rather than prompting viewers by artificial means such as soundtrack (which is all too common to see in film). Instead, the subtle score advances the film without interfering and completes "13 Tzameti" as a uniquely chilling thriller amongst the standard fare in mainstream cinema. Such a strong début from Géla Babluani can only indicate the beginning of many more features from this young director, and with threats of a Hollywood remake make sure you see the original. "