TIFF 2014: Impunity
What starts as reactionary violence quickly dissolves into a crime spree that ends only when two lovers are caught up in intrigue larger even than the law. Echo and Darren just want to be free and together, with no one in their way of happiness. After a murder they seek solace on an abandoned beach. But returning to the world bring larger problems than they can even imagine.
Impunity is something of a social commentary, musing on cultural divides, violence and a lack of personhood felt by many in these changing times. Echo seems to have no wants or drives other than to be with Darren, and it allows her to be a blank canvass on to which director Jyoti Mistry can project a sense of disaffection. The visuals frequently flashback to Echo and Darren’s private world on the beach, and the sense of serene isolation is presented as the ideal. Their criminal actions are frequently intercut with clips of CCTV footage from around the country, giving the sense that theirs is only one of many such stories being played out all around South Africa.
After their crimes spiral beyond their control Darren and Echo face off against police investigating a dignitary’s daughter, and the story becomes a drama about good vs dirty cops. Echo and Darren almost seem to take a backseat, and I do wish we’d spent a bit more time with the investigators because what little we do get of them was far more interesting than the young couples murdersexcapades. The film is not shy though about showing what two young crazy people would do when completely unfettered. The violence and sex are front and centre, and quite lurid. Definitely not for those with delicate sensibilities.
The film has some flaws in pacing and editing, but was otherwise engaging. Unfortunately some of my fellow audience members clearly did not feel the same, as more than a few people actually walked out. I can only hope it was to catch another film (our screening was delayed due to a technical error), but I did notice it seemed to happen after some of the more, ahem, challenging scenes. Unfortunate, to be sure. As my introduction to Mistry’s work I can say that Impunity may not be my top recommendation from the festival, but it was still a worthy choice.