‘Des’ – The Kuleshov Effect

‘Des’ It begins with the arrest of its protagonist, Dennis Nilsen, after having found rotten human flesh in the pipes of the building in which he resides. To everyone’s surprise, Nilsen did not even attempt to hide the facts and claimed to have killed « about 15 or 16 » without flinching. After his arrest, it was astonishing how much he got to talk to the police, providing investigators with a fairly detailed summary of his crimes.

We are at the beginning of 1983.

‘Des’ follows the trail of the subsequent investigation to find the victims of Nilsen, a totally expressionless individual. A walking « Kuleshov effect ». There were no apparent motives or conclusive evidence, and most of the victims lived on the fringes of society. Then, one of the largest investigations in the history of the United Kingdom began: Not to find the (confessed) murderer, but to name the murdered …

And we continue in 1983, until the end.

No, ‘Des’ It is not one of those series in which we begin at the end to narrate the past from the present through an analepsis, more popularly known as « flashback ». ‘Des’ it is above all a series in dialogue, based on the words of each of its characters and on the relationship established between three men: a detective, a biographer and Nilsen himself. A series where we hear a lot about things we never see.

An always elegant and sober production that delves into, or at least tries to, into the mind of one of the most emotionally elusive and enigmatic serial killers we have ever seen on screen. He tries, but not because he stays or leaves us wanting. He tries, because David Tennant’s masterly Nilsen is literally an impenetrable iceberg. I said, a kind of « Kuleshov effect » walking.

The main virtue of ‘Des’ it is precisely his ability to keep this bolt on his protagonist, a real enigma capable of scandalizing us through the most vulgar of appearances. That of a gray, sad, dull and boring man. But mostly cold, very, very, very cold. We only have the appearance and the words. Those of each one, also of course those of a very bland serial killer who must be a crack at poker.

Yes ‘Des’ It is an outstanding miniseries, it is because of the care with which the image takes care of the words: Like a good older brother to his little brother. With no facts to show us and no compelling evidence, everything and nothing at once revolves around the word. Of some and of others. It is not that it is a play, but that as in ‘Mindhunter’, the coup de grace are those face to face that reveal that monsters exist and are in and / or among us.

‘Des’ it is an original and intriguing approach that punishes the viewer with moral concerns. More questions than answers, in an attempt not to delve into the mind of a serial killer, but into that of the viewer who dares to look down on him. It is not that we are all potential murderers, that too: It is very uncomfortable and annoying to find someone who does not fit within the logic of our little personal universe.

‘Des’ It fits the standard of immaculate British production without blemish to speak of a murderer escaping any standard. Thus, David Tennant’s Dennis Nilsen becomes as fascinating a character as David Tennant’s Ed Kemper. ‘Mindhunter’. But not because of what he does, but because of his gift with words and to twist the story. To place ourselves in that dark corner of our souls where even the most horrible crime makes sense.

By Juan Pairet Iglesias