Saturday, 26 September 2015

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

Following hugely successful broadcasts on HBO in the US and Sky Atlantic in the UK, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst is out now on DVD. Shortened to The Jinx, it is a 6-part documentary series recounting and arguably investigating one of the most bizarre cases in crime history. How many of you saw the 2010 thriller All Good Things, starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst? Not many, right? But if you have seen it, you basically know the Robert Durst case. Strongly based on the Durst story but partly fictionalised, it is because of this film that The Jinx series happened. Robert Durst, subject of the film, contacted All Good Things director Andrew Jarecki to arrange an interview and discuss the accuracy of the film. And so, The Jinx was born.  

For those of you unfamiliar with the case, it goes a little something like this. In the 1980s, eccentric millionaire Robert Durst’s wife went missing, never to be found. In 2000, his long-time best friend and confidante was found murdered in her home. And in 2001, his neighbour’s remains were found in the Galveston Bay water, where he was living nearby under a false name and unusual disguise. But due to the lack of any hard evidence and several unpredictable turns of events, Durst has never been convicted of murder. I won’t say any more about the case but believe me when I say you’ve never seen or heard anything like this before. You may have heard parts of it – it was particularly relevant recently in the news, when the series ended – but if you don’t, steer clear of any research until you’ve finished watching it. Go in blind and be shocked by the unexpected turns, or go in aware of the case and still leave in awe of the filmmaking. Either way, The Jinx will grip you. It will grab you from the first minute, hold you tight, and then throw you away at the end in a smug “aren’t I just the best thing you’ve watched recently” kind of way.

Andrew Jarecki, director of documentary Capturing the Friedmans and aforementioned thriller All Good Things, creates an exceptional piece of work here. The Jinx is the most compelling, gripping, tense and addictive series I have seen in a long, long time. Playing out like a thriller, the case is delivered in (mostly) chronological order and unfolds with twists and turns in a way you will hardly be able to believe is real. But it is all true, and therein lies a big chunk of The Jinx’s power. The rest of its power? Simple. The constant interview and testimony throughout with Robert Durst himself. Usually when we watch a documentary about a killer, we just hear from the police and the victim’s families. Here, we regularly hear from an often brutally honest and bloody creepy Durst whose lack of empathy and uncomfortable delivery makes for truly engrossing viewing. I’m sure people will be analysing his behaviour in this piece for years to come. A cheap, Channel 5 documentary series this ain’t. Produced by HBO, the production values are exceptional. If you’ve seen The Imposter, Bart Layton’s BAFTA-winning documentary film, then you’ll know the cinematic and film-like power a documentary can have when done right.

In The Jinx, reconstructions are incredibly well-shot and brooding, and the opening credits sequence in each episode is the best I’ve ever seen – perfectly setting the mood and introducing the menacing Durst in the best way. The original score by West Dylan Thordson is eerily creepy and foreboding, the pacing is consistently excellent and the editing is spot-on. There’s not a dull minute in the six hours of The Jinx, thanks to these factors and the fact that this is one of the most interesting and bizarre cases in history.

All in all, The Jinx is perfect television. There isn’t one thing I can possibly fault with the series. I’ve watched it through 3 times, and could easily start it again right now. Watch the first few minutes of episode one, and I guarantee you will be completely hooked for the entire six hours. This is one to watch again and again, and deserves a place in any documentary or true-crime fan’s collection. But if you’re not a fan of documentaries, don’t let that put you off The Jinx. It’s as much thriller as it is anything else.

The Jinx pulls off the crime and earns an extremely strong 5/5.


Sam Love

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