Accused murderer Robert Durst in New York’s Times Square in The Jinx.At first glance, the story of accused murderer Robert Durst reads like it has spilled from the pages of a crime bestseller. The more you delve into it, however, the more disturbing it becomes. Durst’s first wife, Kathie, vanished in 1982 with no explanation. His friend Susan Berman was murdered in her home in California in 2000. And his neighbour Morris Black was found dismembered in Galveston Bay, Texas, in 2001.
In 2010, American filmmaker Andrew Jarecki thought the twisted tale fascinating enough to spin a piece of fiction out of it, the film All Good Things, about a property heir who was a suspect in the mysterious disappearance of his first wife and the death of two other people.
But a year later the man on whom the film was based – New York property heir Robert Durst – contacted him, first, rather disturbingly, to compliment him on the film, and second to offer himself as a subject for a documentary. To tell, he said, his side of the story.
“I was always interested in Bob Durst, because I’m kind of interested in monster stories,” Jarecki says. “Whenever I hear someone say, this person is crazy, they’re capable of anything, I think, well, there was probably a different person there, at some point.”
The two men agreed to meet, though Jarecki notes there were rules of engagement. “I was never afraid of him,” he says. “I was careful with him.” To his mind, Durst simply wanted to put something on the record. “He didn’t say, ‘I want you to exonerate me’. He said, ‘I want there to be something out there from me’.” More than 20 hours of interviews followed, filmed in 2010 and 2011, and cut at first into a two-hour documentary for HBO, and finally, when the original edit simply could not be contained, a six-part documentary series, The Jinx, which created headlines around the world when it aired in the US this year.
“It was just bursting at the seams,” Jarecki says. “So we’d show a little piece of his wife, and people would say, wait, there’s a wife? And they’d say, ‘no, we’re not going on, I want to know who this person is. I need to know what’s motivating her. What’s going on? Is she important?'”
The weekly format, Jarecki adds, also allowed the audience to undertake the journey on their own terms. “