Original Review Date: 7/26/06
In 13 (Tzameti), a down on his luck handy man named Sebastien (George Babluani) stumbles across the mailed invitation to his recently deceased and secretly destitute employer while fixing the roof of his house. Sebastien has only his needy family in mind when he takes the invitation and follows the directions within it. Through a series of cloak and dagger maneuvers and body searches, he arrives at the invitations true destination, a remote house in the woods. That is the where in 13 (Tzameti) but the what is something I will not reveal. It is too good. If I mentioned other films where similar situations were used as plot devices, it would give it away. If Sebastien knew what the invitation was truly to, he never would have followed its directions. What awaits him is a game, one of the most blood-thirsty games ever invented. This is a tournament where the contestants, Sebastien being the13th contestant, are wagered upon by wealthy spectators at the beginning of each round. The spectators select, arrange and secure transportation and directions for their contestants, as was done for Sebastien’s former employer.
The entirety of the first act of 13 (Tzameti) leads up to the game and it is from the second act on that this film reveals itself and its real underlining plot. Even before Sebastien arrives at the house, the film begins picking up steam as he is told over the phone to get off the train he will travel on one stop before the destination printed on the ticket. He has no idea why he’s been instructed to do so but he does as he is told. From the game on, 13 (Tzameti) grows in increasing excitement, showing the cleverness of the writing in and behind the film. This movie has obvious Hitchcock and film noir elements, a few being: its shot entirely in black and white, the camera holds on characters’ faces for extended periods of time and the film’s ending. Besides the great camera work and cinematography, the real star of 13 (Tzameti) is George Babluani’s Sebastien. It is he who the viewer follows from the beginning of the film to the end. His ingenuity, sympathetic nature and eventual calmness under pressure are what make this film really shine.
Gela Babluani’s 13 (Tzameti) is a well crafted thriller that slowly builds in intensity and complexity. The viewer only receives from the characters and their personalities what is necessary for them to interact with each other in the film. In another movie, this would detract from the overall film but in this movie it is a strength. This occurs because the characters and their backgrounds are not as important as what they are currently going through. Gela Babluani has taken a simple concept and made it blossom into a memorable movie experience.