When I sat down to watch the first episode of The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst I had never really heard of the bloke (aside from the press release about this HBO series, that is).
By the time I had binged my way through 5 episodes of this remarkable true crime doco, I had been sucked into its vortex in a mix of morbid fascination and compelling storytelling.
Durst is the wealthy son of a New York property mogul who has been implicated (and that’s putting it mildly) in three cases of murder or missing persons. Yet pinning him for any has proven elusive.
This doco produced by Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling is as rivetting as their other work, Capturing the Friedmans.
Years of work have gone into this deeply detailed analysis of Durst and the 1982 disappearance of his wife, Kathie, the unsolved killing of his confidante, Susan Berman, and the killing and dismemberment of a neighbour in Galveston in 2001.
Crafted like a giant jigsaw puzzle of Durst’s character it draws upon court evidence, interviews with police and jurors, friends and associates, TV news and re-enactments. Unlike many television re-enactments it astutely keeps an arms’ length distance, filming suggestively or from behind.
Director Jarecki also produced the 2010 thriller All Good Things starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst, inspired by his story. Its release however, had a most remarkable outcome: after years of shunning media interviews, Durst agreed to sit down with Jarecki for extensive interview.
The Jinx is the result.
The interviews reveal a man who has lived in the shadow of his far-more successful younger brother, New York developer Douglas Durst, and who had a troubled relationship with his wife, Kathie (who has never been found since going missing in 1982). Her friends suspected Durst, while the second victim is believed to have known crucial evidence which might have convicted him.
What makes Durst want to participate in the interviews is as mysterious as it is fascinating, and Jarecki carefully invites moments of doubt as to his innocence or guilt. Yet he also builds a compelling case of evidence which, as the series nears conclusion, will leave you absolutely awe-struck.
After the final episode offered new evidence, Durst was subsequently arrested in New Orleans.
The Jinx, so titled because Durst believed he would be a jinx to any children he may have had with his wife, is utterly gripping stuff.
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst begins 7:30pm Thursday on Showcase.