Sometimes a programme comes along, that you watch by chance. The Jinx: the lives and deaths of Robert Durst, sat recorded waiting to be played for months. When you start, it’s unmissable.
The story of how this series came about, is as interesting as the subject matter. After directing the 2010 film All Good Things Director Andrew Jarecki made contact with the subject, Bob Durst. Durst was popular tabloid fodder because of the disappearance of his wife. The six part series, is a brilliantly edited account of Durst’s brushes with the law, accounts of people who tried to prosecute him and the relatives of his supposed victims. Blended together it is a much better piece of work than the aforementioned film.
The flashy documentary style initially had me wondering if the series was some elaborate hoax or dramatisation, but I resisted the urge to google the participants, and having previously seen the film, I was satisfied enough, that what was going on before me was true. Beginning with the discovery of a body in Galveston, Texas, the viewer is quickly introduced to Durst as he is now. A frail looking but highly articulate man, who tells a compelling story. Despite the heinous crimes the show wants us to believe Durst committed, the cordial tone of the interviewer, Jarecki, and the sharp deadpan response of Durst make us keep watching. Durst never fails to come across as likeable, which is worrying depending on your point of view as the series continues.
Where the film focussed on the breakdown of Durst’s marriage and disappearance of his first wife, the series jumps from crime scene to witness statement at breakneck speed. I often thought I was a detective myself looking at all the pieces of evidence. One minute I was listening intently to a witness statement from L.A., then I was looking at decade old photographs from Vermont, all the while being hypnotised by the charisma of Durst as he recounted events. Watching, you just don’t know where this is going to lead. The makers cleverly don’t come down on one side or another for the majority of the series, giving the impression that the case is reaching a conclusion as you head towards the end.
The star of the show is unquestionably Bob Durst himself. The close up image of his face as he answers question after difficult question, is one that will haunt your dreams. Did he do these horrible things? You find yourself wanting to be a detective in the case. You look at every twitch Durst makes. Was he looking away from the camera? I’m sure he didn’t really just say that, did he? Are two responses, that kept being screamed in my head. As the evidence and facts mount up, you feel as if a massive twist or let down is coming at the end. Every moment Durst is on the screen is electrifying and the tension is incredible. The empathy you feel for him is constantly at odds with the portrayal of the evidence by the makers, meaning the episodes whip along at an alarming pace until you reach the conclusion.
Unfortunately living in the UK my exposure to the realities of the Durst case was extremely limited. Had I not watched All good things, I would still have believed this to be a dramatisation and not a true documentary. However this detachment, meant that I was engrossed watching and now my interest is piqued. I would love to know more about the story and how the circumstances have come about. The character of Durst is such, that you cannot help but listen as he tells his story. One description in particular is very amusing. His first wife Kathie Durst came from a lower class family than the billionaire Dursts. When Bob describes attending her family events, you can see the pain he was in at having to be nice and sociable. He just comes across as a grumpy recluse in this scene and when dealing with his estranged brother, Durst comes out as the victim. He as the older son should have inherited the family business, yet for whatever reason his brother Douglas is now in charge. The mischievous side of Bob comes out when the film crew follow him to Douglas’ house. Only later when more evidence is uncovered does this take on a possibly chilling meaning.
As the case is still ongoing and there is the possibility, that this series will be used in evidence, you are left feeling uncomfortable having watched the series. There is no doubt that the makers set out to be even-handed during the process. Unfortunately I fell they lost this towards the end. Rather than spoil your watching, I would just encourage you to find a way to sit through all six episodes and make your own conclusions. You will never look at a documentary in the same way again. If you can’t find the series, just google Bob Durst and go further down the rabbit hole.