Monday, March 16, 2015

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (2015)


Director: Andrew Jarecki


Filmmaker Andrew Jarecki examines the complicated life of reclusive real estate scion, Robert Durst, the key suspect in a series of unsolved crimes. It can be called as a TV documentary series version of Serial podcast but with a resolution to the story at the end of it.

I decided to watch it after my twitter timeline was filled with a major news about this TV series and guess this is first time real life news spoiler-ing a TV show for me. Fuckers... can't they use a spoiler alert! I have seen the first five episodes and the sixth one, which is the finale, that aired yesterday extracted a confession out of him. The fifth episode ended with them finding a new piece of evidence with which they were gonna interview him again with him having no knowledge about it. He was arrested yesterday before the episode aired. The director had previously made the Ryan Gosling film 'All Good Things' which was based on circumstances regarding his wife's disappearance. Durst thought it was a good idea to grant Jarecki an interview so that he could set things straight. 

Robert Durst's wife had disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1982. One of his friends, Susan Berman, had acted as his spokesperson to media during those times and might have had knowledge about Durst's involvement with regards to his wife's disappearance. The case remained unsolved with a very shoddy investigation as Durst family planted stories to newspapers providing alibi for Robert. The DA of New-York decided to reopen the investigation after 18 years in 2000 and Susan Berman was found murdered immediately after that. The TV series begins with another murder in Texas where dismembered body parts of the victim washed up on the shores. This was again traced back to Durst, who was the neighbor to the victim, living a disguised life after the controversies surrounding Berman murder. He admitted to the Texas murder but escaped conviction as his defense team convinced the jury that the murder was an act of self-defense. 

I went without knowing anything about the history of the cases and the only info I had was that he had confessed to his guilt based on today's news. It is a riveting watch and I was reminded of Foxcatcher in some ways even though the crime as such is not at all related apart from both being very wealthy. He too had a difficult personal background  having witnessed his mother's suicide at the age of 7. The family business was passed on to his younger brother which led to animosity between them. The way the story is told is very good with the first episode covers the Texas murder. Second one covers his personal background and the details surrounding his wife's disappearance. The third episode covers his relationship with Susan Berman and her death. The fourth episode is about how he defended the charge in Texas and went scot-free. Fifth episode sets up the second interview with Durst which is also the title for last episode where he apparently confessed. The actual confession was inadvertent with him doing the same in bathroom with hot mic on.

After getting arrested, his defense team have said that they will fight the charges. The exact wording of his supposed confession which is him whispering to himself  is:' What the Hell did I do? Killed them all, of course'. I guess this can be fought as an ambiguous statement by his defense team and they can claim that he was frustrated that the interview didn't help him prove his innocence and because of that he was thinking out loud what others could be thinking. But the circumstantial evidence is just too much. Beverley Hill (spelled wrong) police station received a letter regarding the body of Susan Berman within 24 hours of her death. They speculated that murderer would be someone who was very close to her since him/her cares about her enough to write that letter so that her body won't decompose. Robert of course denied writing that letter and the breakthrough Jarecki got was another letter written to her by Durst with same spelling mistake and handwriting. He is supposed to have handed it over to LAPD last year and Jarecki claims that they accidentally discovered the bathroom confession just recently. That could very well be them lying about it so that they could all time the arrest to coincide with finale.

Unlike Serial, which was an Innocence project, this one is a 'Guilt' project trying to prove Durst's involvement with the murders. My impression is that, without having seen the finale, he is indeed guilty but he is not the serial killer type who kills for the sake of it. There are motives for each of the murders. The killing of his wife could be to do with marital problems and maybe even the divorce settlement impasse. Susan Berman might have been killed because of the reopening of case or maybe she blackmailed him due to financial difficulties. The same could be the motive for the murder in Texas. He does seem to have a tell based on what I saw from his interviews. I am talking about that occasional twitch and wink, which should make him a really poor poker player. The murder/disappearance of his wife reminded me of Malayalam film 'Munnariyippu'. The title-Jinx comes from Durst saying that he didn't want kids because he would be a jinx to them. 

I am yet to watch episode six which remains unavailable on usual places as of now. Will update this after watching it. EDIT: Finally watched the last episode. I don't think the so called confession will be admissible in court. Their best bet is the letter with spelling mistake and similar hand-writing and they have charged him with murder of Susan Berman. They can prove that he was in California at the time of murder but not specifically in LA. All depends on how he responds to questioning and Jury selection will be difficult because of the popularity and coverage around the show.

Rating: 5/5