TV DVD Review: The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (USA, 2015)

When filmmaker and entrepreneur Andrew Jarecki began the years long investigation that would turn into his award winning documentary series The Jinx, he listed his ultimate aim as attempting to gain a sense of “justice, such as we can get in this case”. Real life events show that Jarecki certainly achieved this, but along the way he also managed to craft one of the most entertaining and finely crafted true-crime documentary series in years.

Australians may not have been all that aware of series subject Robert Durst prior to The Jinx, but he is certainly a notorious and enigmatic figure in his home country of the United States. Heir to a major New York real estate company, Durst is perhaps best known for the 1982 disappearance of his wife Kathie Durst, a disappearance that he is long suspected to have played a part in. He is further linked to the 2001 death of his former neighbour Morris Black in Texas (a crime which he was found not guilty of even though he admitted to dismembering Black’s body), and the 2000 homicide of his college friend Susan Berman, a crime which (SPOILER ALERT) Durst is currently awaiting trial for murder.

The Jinx is both a lengthy investigation of these crimes and Durst’s life, with Jarecki and his team speaking to a number of people involved in an attempt to uncover the truth about Durst’s involvement. Perhaps most fascinating is the fact that the series is centred around a series of interviews between Jarecki and Durst himself, who contacted the filmmaker after seeing his 2010 film All Good Things, which is loosely based on the events surrounding Kathie’s disappearance. These interviews are the highlight in what is ultimately an exceptional piece of filmmaking, as they not only humanise Durst but also make you feel almost sorry for the man despite his sordid past. As Jarecki notes in the final episode, “I like the guy”, a sentiment that no doubt many audience members will share whilst watching the series.

Jarecki’s series is broken up into six episodes, or chapters, with each filling in a different piece of the puzzle that is Durst’s life. Beginning with the events in Texas, The Jinx slowly reveals a number of clues and elements of the story, putting the audience firmly in the mystery. By the time Jarecki revisits Texas in the fourth episode, the series has discussed both Kathie’s disappearance and Susan’s murder, thus linking the events as small pieces in the web of Durst’s bizarre life.

Ultimately, the major achievement of The Jinx is not just Jarecki’s investigation and the results it achieves, but also the aforementioned lengths that the filmmaker goes to in order to humanise his subject. There are entire segments and even an episode wholly devoted to Durst’s troubled life and upbringing, which seemingly began when he witnessed his mother commit suicide at the age of seven. Jarecki’s ultimate success is therefore in not painting Durst as a murderous monster, but in suggesting that a life plagued by neglect and mental health issues has led to the man resorting to a life of crime as a twisted plea for help. The fact Durst agrees to be interviewed by Jarecki (his first and only interviews since Kathie’s disappearance) strongly supports this fact.

In short, The Jinx is not only an exemplary feat within the documentary form, but a milestone in filmmaking as a whole. For days after watching the series I have thought of little else, and for me that makes Jarecki’s series a huge success. The Jinx rightly deserves all the accolades that are sent its way, and I wait with eager anticipation to see what Andrew Jarecki has in store for us next.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Running Time: 270 Minutes

Sadly the DVD doesn’t come with any special features besides the option of a few alternative languages and subtitles. It’s a bit of a shame really, as it would have been great to learn a bit more about the team’s investigation.)

The Jinx is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray