The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (2015) Directed by Andrew Jarecki

So, the tip came through. It was a lead. A recommendation, something to follow up. I normally discard such notices but it was from a trusted source, so definitely verifiable. The brief? Watch The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (2015) now! My love of James Ellroy's alternative history of crime, my endurance of American Psycho or my intrigue of the Zodiac case, or for that matter the ripper chase in David Peace's Red Riding Quartet, going back to Silence Of the Lambs. My unquestionable desire to know the sticky and icky of the decidedly slippery and trace leaving meant that a character as rich in evasiveness as Robert Durst was always going to be fascinating to me. After watching the first episode, I got Astrid hooked and the intrigue (and abject horror) intensified.

Kathie & Robert Durst. Kathie disappeared never to be seen again in early 1982.
I must posit the thought right now that Jarecki's All Good Things has been on the one to watch list, but I hadn't made the connection with Durst and the interest had merely been ignited by the handsome leads in the movie. So when I dug deeper and realized that Jarecki has also been responsible for Capturing The Friedmans then reputation held sway. The Jinx could ultimately be the story of how power and wealth, weather recognized by the individual beneficiary or not, holds sway over everything and anything, often to the detriment of others. The fact that Durst was part of the iconic real estate empire out of New York automatically gave him a certain immunity, by which his probable deeds were tolerated. So the importance of The Jinx may not only be its probable solving of one case but to actually interview a bona-fide serial killer in the flesh.

Robert Durst in  The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
Robert Durst does imbue some sympathy when watched repeatedly telling us how he had been hounded out of town after his wife's disappearance and how he had been forced to don women's clothing as a disguise and how he had cut up the body but the death was still an accident blah blah blah. Each accusation of his own involvement in a series of deaths is met by a deep swallow, a nervous tick of some kind or a collection of weirdo grimaces (so much could be read into this). The joy of The Jinx is that doubt constantly remains that Durst has been somehow set-up and he really was innocent of all accusations. Of course, we return to the slippery adjective, and Durst is the slipperiest of customers as time will prove. In effect The Jinx offers us talking heads of those involved, plus a trial and some very stylized dramatized scenes that could be straight from True Detective (as could be the opening title sequence-this is HBO after all). Jarecki's questioning of Durst never really cuts deep enough confirmed by the biggest revelations coming from Durst's own mouth off camera (but being sound recorded) and on his own. These scenes of The Jinx truly disturb, Durst letting his guard down out of sight but the view into his mind's working revealed. He's still in the news and we haven't quite heard the last of Durst. The Jinx one feels is essential viewing, as topical as it maybe now but also for years to come, it offers genuine insights to a calculating evil. 

The Jinx is a product of its time. It's not enough to tell a gripping story, but it has to have a complex and continual relationship to real life and time; events keep happening while telling the story. And after the conclusion of the documentary there has been more – in the news, in some court houses, in people's lives. The Jinx made me sit uncomfortably. It made me contemplate domestic violence, the dynamics of relationships and where to draw the line in defining a functioning relationship. It also reminded me that no matter how nice it would be to be able to clearly define who is bad and who is good – or who is the victim and who the perpetrator – those lines are always blurred. Or at least someone is always related to the bad guy.
Salvador Dali's Clocks
This strange documentary/reality drama narrates and visualizes the story of a man who has killed at least one person, very likely many more. It gives the violent and rich white man center stage, allowing him to speak even after it is clear to the film makers that they are dealing with a killer. He comes across very strange, wounded, off-kilter, aged, both socially talented and withdrawn. But the series has also helped to uncover links and evidence resulting in the case against Durst that is now waiting to go on trial in Los Angeles. Entertainment is thus other people's evidence, maybe even the truth that has been waiting to come out.
melting iphones from
In watching this six-part series my thoughts often wander to the image in the beginning, where Durst tells about witnessing his mother's suicide – or the minutes just before she jumped. He implies that his father made sure he saw her up on the roof. This is a family of unimaginable wealth – the owners of New York one might say. But unhappiness, darkness, dirt and loss will not leave them alone despite their ability to buy silence and narrative. The Jinx is gripping because of its relationship to reality and the current time – it is frightening and chilling, because it shows that there is no guarantee of justice in the American (or Finnish) justice system. It reminds me of the shocking power of rich white men. I hope that in time the series will also be seen as the instrument that helped bring peace to the relatives of the deceased and lost family members. 


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