This enigmatically surreal thriller stars Vincent Cassel as a dangerously charismatic cult leader – a mix of Pied Piper, Fagin and Charles Manson – who rules over a commune of women and children, claiming he is protecting them from the evils of the outside world but training his young charges to become assassins.

Australian first-time director Ariel Kleiman offers few clues in Partisan to explain this bizarre situation, largely relating events through the eyes of 11-year-old Alexander (an outstanding debut by Jeremy Chabriel) as he comes to question this tyrannical father figure’s authority.

The storytelling is possibly a little too wilfully obscure, but whenever the protagonists leave the commune’s walled-in compound, the desolate urban landscape outside – shot in the former Soviet republic of Georgia – makes a powerful impression.

Certificate 15. Runtime 94 mins. Director Ariel Kleiman

Partisan is showing today on Sky Premiere and is available on DVD from Metrodome.