Tuesday, 5 January 2010


The Killers, a twenty-minute student film directed by a young Andrei Tarkovsky and his colleagues, takes its inspiration from the Ernest Hemingway short story of the same name. The film is set in an American diner, the favourite eatery of regular customer Nick Adams. In the first scene, two menacing gangsters enter and inform the owner George to keep an eye out for one Ole Anderson, whom they plan to kill for an undisclosed reason. The gangsters tie up Nick Adams and the diner’s poorly blacked-up chef, ordering George to keep up the pretence in the hope that Anderson will turn up. Adams later meets Anderson outside the diner, but fails to dissuade him from meeting his fate.

It is refreshing to see that Tarkovsky’s first work shares all the hallmarks of modern student films – the acoustics are shaky, the set is pokey, the cast members (including Tarkovsky as a whistling customer) all seem very young. But of course, one could say the same for most directors’ first works, and Tarkovsky’s legacy of outstanding international classics is testament to the axiom ‘everybody’s got to start somewhere’. It was apparently Tarkovsky’s suggestion to use Hemingway’s story as source material, as his works had only just become available in the Soviet Union. The resultant adaptation is something of an oddity, a film noir with Soviet ancestry. Credit where credit’s due, there are some lovely angles, and the pace is admirable, but this is mostly of interest to fans of Tarkovsky or Hemingway.

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