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Print to Projector: The Killer Without Cause

By  · Published on September 4th, 2010

As the only literate Reject, it’s my duty to find the latest, the greatest and the untouched classics that would make great source material for film adaptations. I read so you don’t have to.

This week, Print to Projector presents the story of a young man enamored by a beautiful city who discovers that amidst its perfection lies a man who lures victims to a violent death by drowning.


We open on a bare stage lit with blue and white lights.

The central focus of “The Killer” by absurdist playwright Eugene Ionesco is a young man named Berenger who has left the toil of the city for the splendor of a secluded planned community known as the Radiant City. As he hears more about the controlled climate, the omnipresence of blooming flowers, and the high quality of every building, he becomes more infatuated with the promise of the place.

He desperately wants to live there.

Every character in the play – from the Architect who designed the city to The Killer himself – is a breathing symbolism. Berenger is the embodiment of idealism – naive, excitable, quick to fall in love. He’s a man who decides that he has the moral duty to stop the Killer from taking anymore lives.

This takes him through a fascist political rally, into the shining fountain of the Radiant City, and right to his best friend’s doorstep.

Potential Problems

As an absurdist play, it would be incredibly difficult to adapt for the screen without shoving in so much empty pretension that even a Grad School Student would choke to death on it. There would be a fine balance to seek out in bringing the spirit of the play to life while filling out the edges to transform what is perfect for the stage into something that is perfect for the screen.

That doesn’t mean adding a car chase, but it does mean extending the characters in such a way that they maintain their metaphorical importance while having a bit more to do than sitting around drinking wine and talking.

The Pitch

Writing: Despite only having one film under his belt, by pulling duty as director, writer, editor, producer and star on it (while creating a captivating film) Shane Carruth proved with Primer that he can write with precision and intensity. He also proved that he can create strange situations that feel incredibly real to the audience because of a grand internal consistency.

It would be fascinating to see his take on a script where a character equal parts Mother Goose and Hitler leads her troops in feverish chants and where a murderer disguises himself as a beggar. It would also be interesting to see such a careful sci-fi writer enter a world of factual contradictions.

Directing: There is only one person I would like to see direct this. Even though he lost touch with Hollywood a few years ago, David Lynch is tailor-made for this material.


Rufus Sewell as Berenger: There’s a strange combination here as Berenger feels like a noir detective that’s been given the optimism that a shining new lease on life can provide. He’s a man living in squalor who might come to live in the Garden of Eden. Sewell is great actor for this role because he’s got the gritty, five o’clock shadow facade covering up the talent to hit the entire emotional gamut.

Dileep Rao as The Architect: The Architect is dry and apathetic even when describing his triumph. He passes over information like the existence of a vicious killer that strikes daily with the same tone as he’d use to ask you to pick up milk at the store if you get a chance. Rao – who was last in Inception – would have to tone down a bit of natural charisma, but he’s got an enigmatic feel to him that would work well against Sewell.

Justin Theroux as Edward: As Theroux is the picture of health, he really shouldn’t be a great choice for the sickly, withered-arm-owning Edward (Eduoard en France), but the character is a mincing, cruel-minded victim that spits out vitriol and whines constantly. Theroux has proven himself great in those kinds of roles. Edward is one of the many atrocious characters that Berenger is desperately trying to save from the Killer even though it’s possible Edward is the Killer himself.

Louise Fletcher as Mother Peep: Peep is a local political figure that spouts out the contradictory ideals of Nazi Germany or INGSOC. She’s probably the most vicious of all the characters, representing the exploitation of the unthinking. She is angry at presumably nothing, but that doesn’t stop her from being louder than everyone else. If you can’t get Bill O’Reilly in drag, who better to take on the part than Nurse Rached?

Naomi Watts as Dany: A very minor role, Dany is the architect’s assistant with whom Berenger falls instantly in love. Watts undoubtedly has that quality in her arsenal and can take on the strange dialog and behavior that ensues.

…with Christopher Plummer as The Killer: There will always be an intense amount of debate as to how to cast The Killer – a representation of Death and its inevitability – but there’s something about dressing up Christopher Plummer as a beggar that seems to work. More so than that, the role demands an actor that can be deeply unnerving without any lines.

Who Owns It:

The estate of Eugene Ionesco.

The Projection:

This wouldn’t be a big blockbuster or anything, but it could be made into a beautiful exploration of our hopes and our fears about death. At the core, the play is a thematic trip through the rare shining moment of perfection we find in a life otherwise surrounded by the mundane and dirty. Still, nothing good can exist without the flaw exhibited best by (appropriately) an anonymous poet:

“It is a fearful thing to love what death can touch.”

Feign literary expertise by reading more Print to Projector.

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