Keillers Park Review
Although it opens dramatically with a late night phone call requesting a mysterious and urgent assignation and the breaking down of a door the next morning by the police as they come to arrest Peter Feldmanis (Mårten Klingberg) for the murder of his lover Nassim Ghabbar (Piotr Giro), it is soon established that there is clearly more to Keillers Park than it being a mere thriller. Through the police interrogation that follows and the flashbacks to the time they spent together, Susanna Edwards’ film also casts an eye over many other aspects of modern society and their attitudes towards business, family, class, race and, above all, homosexuality.
Primarily, it’s the coming to awareness of his attraction for another man that turns those comfortable truths about Peter’s place in society upside-down. A successful civil engineer destined to take over the family business from his father, admired and respected by his colleagues and married to a beautiful and loving wife, Peter risks losing everything for Nassim, a handsome waiter who has caught his eye and passed him his phone number while distributing a free newspaper on the street. Peter, at first not really knowing why, nonetheless agrees to meet the man at Keillers Park. The upheaval that happens in his life afterwards however is nothing compared to what he has to endure when he is later accused of killing the man he loved in the very same park.
Keillers Park sets itself up with a number of challenges. It’s clearly more than a thriller, so it needs to keep those dramatic genre elements from impinging on or detracting from the important underlying social aspects of the story. It also has to take the personal drama of family upheaval of a respectable heterosexual businessman embarking on a more flamboyant gay lifestyle and make it convincing without it spilling over into lurid melodrama. And, to some extent, the director does manage to underplay those elements, keeping them contained and relevant to the main narrative and its purpose, but it would seem that in the process the characterisation consequently lacks conviction.
It’s not that there should necessarily be any difficulty in having a heterosexual character suddenly demonstrate homosexual inclinations – it happens enough and with relative conviction in the films of François Ozon and Christophe Honoré – but Peter’s attraction with Nassim is founded on little more than a passing glance. Even so, it’s entirely possible for a connection to be made in this way, but a filmmaker should be able to show the force of that moment and its impact, and that is not achieved here. Nor is the growth of their relationship successfully established through short-cut clichéd montages of candlelit dinners, wine, lovemaking and happy together scenes of the couple laughing together on park swings. But it’s not just the central gay relationship that fails to convince. Fundamentally, you can accept that the reaction from his conservative family is not going to be supportive, but the situations are not handled at all well within the context of the film, Peter’s wife for example seeming to realise he is gay when he tries to have anal sex with her. That may not actually be the case, but it seems that way and it’s certainly not the most appropriate situation for her to confront him with his infidelity.
It could be that the acting just isn’t up to conveying the full import and subtle nuances of the relationships, but they do often feel like stock situations and, worse, are filmed and lit in a generic manner, with Peter’s arrest, interrogation and incarceration, all related within a conventional flashback structure, looking like it comes straight out of any TV-movie thriller. There are some moments of originality (a moment when Santa intervenes in a lover’s dispute for example), but for everyone of those, there is a similar moment of banality and obviousness of exposition.
What keeps the film going however is the thriller element – the question of who killed Nassim and why he was killed. It is certainly established that there are plenty of suspects among Peter’s friends, family and work colleagues, unhappy with the change in his lifestyle, and there is even a half-convincing line followed that could indeed point the finger of blame at Peter. As the film progresses however it’s clear that it’s not so much one person as society as a whole that is being tried for its barely suppressed homophobia. Seeming acceptable by all right-thinking people when it’s kept at a safe distance, it doesn’t take much for the real prejudice to come out when it’s brought closer to home.
Those elements could certainly be expanded on within the film more than they are, as could the other social aspects of Peter’s relationship with Nassim. The difference in class, for example, is dealt with in a heavy-handed Fox And His Friends way, Nassim being an embarrassment in certain social situations, and the issue of race – Nassim being a French-Algerian – is barely alluded to when it is surely also of some significance. However, as an issue film within the context of a thriller, Keillers Park has enough to deal with trying to make the case that it is as much Homosexuality being the victim as Nassim, without trying to bring in other complicating factors. It doesn’t help however that, whether it may be true to the circumstances of a real-life case or not, that the eventual scapegoat targeted by the film is overly convenient and rather unconvincing in the light of all that has gone on before.
Keillers Park is released in the UK by Peccadillo Pictures. The film is presented on a single-layer disc, is in PAL format, and is not region encoded.
It’s impossible to find any serious flaw with the transfer. Presented anamorphically at the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and progressively encoded, the transfer shows the high quality that can be achieved even on a single-layer disc. Colours are bold, clear and perfectly toned, there are no marks on the print (the source appears to be digital), and there are no signs of compression artefacts, edge-enhancement or any other kind of digital encoding artefact. This is pretty much perfect, as is often the case with Peccadillo Pictures releases.
There is only one audio option, which is Dolby Digital 2.0 – but it’s likely that this is the original mix, since it’s not the kind of film that would benefit greatly from a surround soundtrack. In any case, it can hardly be faulted either. The sound is clear at all levels and the range is good. There are no great demands placed on it, but the sound copes well with each situation, whether a disco or in quieter passages.
English subtitles are provided and are optional in a strong, bold white font of adequate size.
There are no extra features related to the film itself, just Trailers to other current and forthcoming DVD and cinema releases from Peccadillo Pictures.
There is certainly potential to expose social attitudes and prejudices in Keillers Park related to business, class and sexuality, and neither the family drama nor the murder thriller angle need necessarily prevent the film from getting its message across. Unfortunately the manner in which the situations are presented lacks credibility and the resolution is ultimately unsatisfactory, not only failing to deliver on a narrative level, but weakening the impact of the relevant points made elsewhere. Fatally, the film doesn’t carry the weight of its own convictions. It’s weak in its characterisation, and consequently it also pulls its punches in its half-hearted condemnation of a society it believes doesn’t really care, failing to apportion blame within the sectors that are most influential upon the fostering of those social attitudes.
Although lacking in any relevant supplemental features for the film, Peccadillo Pictures’ DVD release cannot however be faulted for its presentation.