Citizen X (1995)

In theory, Citizen X focuses on the discovery, prosecution, and capture of “necro-sadist” Andrei Chikatilo, a serial killer who claimed 52 victims whose raped, stabbed, beaten, and chewed-on corpses were found strewn through the woods and fields often years after they were killed.

Although this movie avoids the adventure-style police drama with lots of gore, violence, and endless car chases, it turns instead toward a study of the men who captured Chikatilo, and in doing so follows the standard horror movie format: man overcoming man in order to recognize and address danger.

We see the conflict between the administrator Mikhail Fetisov (Donald Sutherland) who knows the Soviet system is worthless but works it through deception because otherwise nothing would get done, and young robotic scientist and idealist Victor Burakov (Stephen Rea) who chafes at the insensibility of the system to an obvious horror within.

As tends to happen in such films, the two gradually come to understand each other and cross the lines they have set up for themselves in order to accomplish the impossible, naming identifying a serial killer in a State that insists such things do not exist and would rather round up pedophiles and homosexuals.

Citizen X covers all of the relevant details of the case, sometimes combining multiple events into single scenes for efficiency, including the major hangup in focusing on Chikatilo, whose proclivities were known from an early date, namely the non-secretor status of the suspect:

What was not realised at the time was that Chikatilo’s actual blood type, type A, was different to the type found in his other bodily fluids (type AB), as he was a member of a minority group known as “non-secretors”, whose blood type cannot be inferred by anything other than a blood sample. As police only had a sample of semen, and not blood, from the crime scenes, Chikatilo was able to escape suspicion of murder.

Based on a book The Killer Department by Robert Cullen, Citizen X creates a highly emotive script centered on the relationship between two men in their quest to overcome the inertia of the system and catch a killer.

If anything, the movie indicts “the bureaucracy” more than Communism, an intelligent move given how that bureaucracy seems to have hopped shores and come to visit us here, showing how in the climate of fear that tyrants adore, few people will act from fear of losing the status they have already achieved.

Unlike many films, it does a wonderful job of showing the normalcy of such a regime, with people dedicated to jobs, families, and pursuits while trying to dodge the authorities and snitches around them.

Sensibly it avoids too much of a focus on the killings, staging three central scenes that effect the horror without indulging in tabloid-style reenactments, and uses beautiful and melancholy cinematography to capture the sensation of Soviet life.

As Glasnost dawns and Russia changes, the police finally close in on the murderer with the help of psychiatrist Alexandr Bukhanovsky (Max von Sydow) who risks condemnation by his peers to work on the case, capturing Chikatilo and starting the process leading to his eventual execution.

Ultimately this shows us humankind struggling for sanity, both against an overbearing bureaucracy as well as an ideology of conformity and the inertia of people in a system who have given up hope, to find someone who has gone so far into insanity that only force can stop him.

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8 thoughts on “Citizen X (1995)”

  1. NecroAIDS says:

    Good film. My favorite part is when the little fag pisses on the dead chick’s face. It makes me horny.

    1. That was a particularly rich detail.

  2. Fish says:

    From a video interview with the real prosecutors and police staff who caught Chikatilo, this “non-secretor” hypothesis came from a specialist who worked with the biological materials from the crime scenes. The main prosecutor said that it was an utterly false idea that was caused by a mistake on the specialist’s part, and the specialist probably covered up her fuck-up by this unproven idea. Paradoxical secretion is non-existent by contemporary data. There were a lot of mistakes. However, throughout the whole search for Chikatilo, many other criminals and murderers were identified, who otherwise, in absence of such mobilization of forces, would be left unknown.

    It’s interesting to hear about maniac murderers. Have they always existed or not? Do they become what they become because of some income disparities? Urban anonymity causing them to go mad? Inceldom?

    Or maybe it is dysgenic fertility reaching such degrees of concentration that intergenerational coupling of criminals and sluts produce such horrible creatures? All other factors besides genes probably have little to do with those sociopaths.

    Devil only knows what is ahead of us with the further bilogical degradation.

    1. Jack the Riffer says:

      One percent of the world are estimated to be psychopaths but there’s not millions of serial killers out there. The pattern seems to be a perfect storm of psychopathy, abusive parents and generally shitty influences during childhood and adolescence.

      1. The pattern seems to be a perfect storm of psychopathy, abusive parents and generally shitty influences during childhood and adolescence.

        The cause remains unknown, although the factors you link — genetic predisposition, abusive home life, lack of positive alternatives — seem to “awaken” psychopathy in some people. Chikatilo was hydrocephalic as a kid, possibly a result of the Holodomor starving him of vital nutrition. Bundy may have been an inbreeding baby. Ed Kemper had at least one alcoholic parent. But in other cases, we have no record of anything going wrong. Possibly too little holding of the baby, or psychologically abusive households, but they produced people so angry that they wanted to terrorize a whole community with the deaths of multiple individuals.

    2. 4DeSecuritah says:

      Its ok, big brother cares for your safety 24/7.

  3. Seam says:

    I loathe serial killers and don’t get the public’s fascination with them. Defective, destructive sub-humans, egomaniacal, and idiots more often than not who somehow manage to get away with their depravity for unbelievable amounts of time. Should be put down as soon as apprehended.

    1. Same reason people are fascinated by Drag Queen Story Hour, Lehman Brothers, Jeffrey Epstein, Rosemont-Seneca, the McMartin preschool, and Martin Luther King, Jr: they are looking for symbols of the decay which enwraps us.

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