2009 // Slovenia // Igor Sterk // November 15, 2011 // Theatrical DVD (Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema)
The bloody fingerprints of The Tenant cover the Slovenian psychological mystery 9:06, which shares the suffocating fatalism and crumbling sense of self that characterize Roman Polanski’s unnerving 1976 film. However, where Polanski’s Trelkovsky is bullied and manipulated into becoming a gender-bending double of the deceased woman who once owned his Parisian flat, the protagonist of 9:06 plunges into the enveloping identity of a dead man for reasons that remain his own. This is no creepshow feature of urban paranoia, but a somber tale about the mysterious authority of guilt, despair, and self-loathing.
Police detective Dusan (Igor Samobor) is at a shaky crossroads in his personal life, as he tries to juggle a spiteful ex-wife whom he hates, an adopted daughter whom he loves, and a young girlfriend who is growing dissatisfied with his phantom comings and goings. Foremost on his mind, however, is a perplexing suicide case, in which a reclusive young pianist stopped his car on a bridge and leapt into the gorge below. The odd details of the case intrigue Dusan: The complete absence of hair on the victim’s body; logs of bizarre online activities; associates who seem unaware that the pianist is dead; and the possibly significant recurrence of the time 9:06. The detective snoops around the deceased man’s vacant apartment for breadcrumbs, and—for reasons that he does not entirely understand—eventually begins sleeping there. The suicide case gradually starts to devour Dusan’s waking hours, feeding on his remorse from a past sin. The detective barely seems aware that he has silently passed out of the realms of an official investigation and deep into the outlands of obsessive madness.
The film presents Dusan’s disintegration with an intense, moody restraint. The script is sparing, rarely stating outright what can more gracefully be implied with cool offhandedness. The film observes the detective’s movements with an ominous care, leaving the viewer to discern what they can from the garish cracks in his otherwise sphinx-like manner. Underneath its arid surface, 9:06 proffers a disconcerting depiction of oblivion’s squirming allure. The personal effects of the pianist—neatly folded clothes, car keys, shaving utensils—become compass needles that all orient the detective in the same dread direction. However, Dusan is no Hamlet: Far from seething in the shadow of death, he seems to shuffle towards it with the blank resignation of a volcano’s sacrificial victim. Chilling stuff.