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13 Tzameti

Digital Two Stars
I'd heard a lot about 13 Tzameti, a lot of positive things that came out of the early screenings of this film and reviews commenting on how strong it and concept were, all suggesting that this was a clever film that really needed to be seen. Then word came that Hollywood was remaking it and the alarm bells rang. I needed to see the original before it was made into a softer, slicker version with the usual production cries of "bigger" and "more" thrown at it.

Well that's what I thought, and who could blame me with the way that ninety-nine percent of all remakes go these days? So now I've watched the film my ideas have totally turned around, and I'm wondering what way the Hollywood remake will go because there's so much left aside in the original which I thought I would see.

Not only did I have the chance to watch 13 Tzameti but this was the first time I was watching a film on an online rental service. LOVEFiLM has a new service where you can watch movies online instead of having them posted out, and they've partnered with Sony PlayStation 3 in order to deliver the right to your home entertainment system.

I'll review the service itself after I've watched a few more films, but so far I have to admit it's just so damned convenient, having the film you want to see play right in front of your eyes within a matter of seconds.

Now, on with the film review.

Plot.png13Tzameti.jpgThe plot is relatively simple and has shades of what I love best about thrillers, a person thrown into an extraordinary situation that they have no understanding or control over. 13 Tzameti does just.

The story opens with a workman repairing a roof. We see he lives with his family who are struggling for money and relying on his work, and the people whose roof he's repairing haven't yet come through with the first payment.

While he's working there he hears the conversation of the people inside and discovers that the man who just died there was about to do something that would earn him a large amount of money. By chance an envelope addressed to the dead man falls into the hands of the workman, and it sparks his interest. It contains a train ticket and some instructions, and with it he sees his opportunity to become the dead man, go on the journey and get the money he was set to earn.

However, he has no idea what he's getting into, and when he does it's far too late.

TheFilm.pngI expected a lot from 13 Tzameti, there have been a lot of positive reviews and commentary about the film but it's far from a complete story and I can actually see why there would be a remake being made right now, and that's not something I say very often.

The film feels as though it's a short story compared to a feature film, although the running time is equivalent it never felt as though we get the chance to delve into the characters, we just watch them on the surface going about their business, even if that business is very strange.

The problem with this lack of characterisation is that we don't feel connected to anyone, we don't feel involved, and we end up just looking from the outside. This is perhaps the single biggest issue I had with the film. For if I had become involved my emotions would be running much higher and I'd have felt more invested in the story and the characters.

For me cinema is about escaping, about being lost in another story, in another world, with other characters, and I always say that a sign of a film being successful is when you walk out of the screening thinking or talking about the film rather than about what you are going to have for tea. For me, as I walked away from this film, I began thinking about the next thing in my life and the film hardly touched me.

For this reason the film loses a lot of the power and tension through some of the most important scenes, and where I should be on the edge of my seat during the seconds before that bulb goes on, I just wasn't, and when that bulb went on and the next round happened, I didn't even flinch or care about what happened to anyone involved. I just watched the story play out.

Now that all sounds pretty bleak, but there is one very strong reason to stay, the story itself. While you may not become emotionally involved in the story and the characters, you will be surprised at how intriguing the idea is and you'll want to see it play out to a conclusion. You may not feel that you care what happens to the main character, but you will want to see how the story ends.

What the character becomes involved in and the intricacies of the event are very intriguing, heightened somewhat by the feeling that this is all so normal for the others around our main character, and for those reasons the film becomes worth watching.

However I did feel there was so much missed opportunity. Bringing us closer to the lead character, feeling something for him and his family, making some of the characters around him more accessible and believable. Bringing us into the story could have ramped up the tension and suspense ten fold during the sequences at the unknown location, and that's where the film needed it the most.

There's also something only touched on at the beginning of the film and seen from an emotional distance with the main character, how people are affected by the event that the main character becomes involved in. How it changes them afterwards and what they need to do to cope with, or escape the world around them.

You can clearly see the potential in the film, but it's just not quite realised here.

There are only two issues I have with streaming films just now, picture and audio. It's something that will improve with time as the technology gets better for both compression and internet bandwidth, but for now the picture doesn't hit 1080p and the audio doesn't get anywhere near high definition 5.1.

However I was surprised at how strong and clear the picture was. With my 8Mb (tested 6Mb) broadband connection it began streaming within a few seconds and the picture was sharp, as sharp as the slightly grained black and white film allowed.

There were a few short moments where digital blocking appeared on the picture, but they were gone in an instant and the picture returned to normal, who knows if it was something local to the house, the exchange, something down the line, however it did pick up in a flash and continue on.

An issue with the streaming of that did affect the film a little more than a few seconds of blocking was the fact that the subtitles were cut off on the bottom of the screen, something I think might only be present in this film as they did seem quite far below the actual picture. It never stops you from being able to read them, but it is noticeable.

As I said with the picture, streaming films don't yet offer the bonus of 5.1 audio tracks, never mind high definition tracks. However the stereo track was always there and never flinched nor was there any digital corruption during the playback.

Overall.pngFor me 13 Tzameti was a bit of a disappointment, and yet the story itself did interest and intrigue. There's certainly potential for a lot more from the film and the main character, and if the sequences in the unknown location can have more of an impact on the audience then this could be a powerful film.

It just fails to connect the audience with the characters and their situation, and if it fails to do that then the sympathy and empathy that you should feel during the real story is gone, and that's where it could really be grabbing the audience.

As it is it, 13 Tzameti does fall short of the thriller I expected, but it does provide for some thought and entertainment. Perhaps this really could be another case where the remake equals and maybe even surpasses the original.

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Its been a few years since I saw this, so can't remember how I was left feeling, but my memory says I really enjoyed it.

Its the same director making the remake, but i'm pretty sure after all the extra money that will be thrown at it (made for €1.5M originally), the 'big name' stars that will appear in it, and the changes the hollywood exec's will ask for to hit that demographic, we'll have a bigger hit, and a lesser film

Still, i'm often wrong ;-)

I don't think it could be lesser Steven, I think they could actually add something to it, although I do think that it will end up with a nice Hollywood ending, there's a damn good chance they'll be able to add some form of emotional connection to any of the characters or the situations.

Truly educative bless you, There's no doubt that your trusty audience might probably want further stories like that carry on the great hard work.

Incredibly educational bless you, There's no doubt that your current audience would possibly want a lot more stories like this carry on the excellent work.



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