Review: Clip (2012)

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Cast: Isidora Simijonovic, Vukasin Jasnic, Sanja Mikitisin
Director: Maja Milos
Country: Serbia
Genre: Drama
Official Trailer: Here


Editor’s Note: Clip opens in limited release tomorrow, March 15th

In a world where almost everyone seems to own at least one handheld communication device, we tend to forget the sort of power such tools allow us to wield. The characters of Clip, lower class teenagers on the outskirts of Belgrade, do not take such things for granted: when Jasna, ill-tempered daughter of a father succumbing to cancer and a mother frustrated by her inability to control her children, receives a phone from her wealthy uncle, its novelty among her peers translates to an elated social status, with all its benefits and dangers. It’s a fitting conceit for a film primarily concerned with notions of power and empowerment, culture and identity, the past and the present.

Excessive, perhaps, but never once exploitative, Milos’ decision to show this material unfiltered has seen the film banned in Russia, yet it’s an important necessity to convey the grotesquerie of this quasi-abusive relationship, its difficulty paramount to the communication of Milos’ themes.

clip3The attention this new technology earns Jasna is seen primarily in Djole, an older boy with whom she is infatuated, and who eventually yields to her drunken advances, using the phone to film the increasingly demeaning sex acts he has her perform. Making her debut as both writer and director, Maja Milos opens the narrative on such captured footage, the commanding voice of Djole and his imposing silhouette dwarfing Jasna as she dances provocatively. It’s a film that’s extraordinarily graphic, often shockingly so, its provocative sexual explicitness specifically employed to portray in all its unpleasant detail the degradation to which Jasna is willing to submit herself. Excessive, perhaps, but never once exploitative, Milos’ decision to show this material unfiltered has seen the film banned in Russia, yet it’s an important necessity to convey the grotesquerie of this quasi-abusive relationship, its difficulty paramount to the communication of Milos’ themes.

Those themes find richest expression in the tension between Jasna’s home and social lives. Reclusive in the former, refusing to communicate with her father or help her mother with his care, she revels in the frivolities of youth once free from the claustrophobically shot domestic space. The clear dissonance between the generations carries the bulk of Milos’ observation on contemporary Soviet society, her characters representing—in their interrelations as much as in their actions—the state of the nation. Jasna’s joins an elite club of ailing film fathers, his bed-ridden impotence throughout the story rendering him—as patriarchs in the likes of 1948’s Germany Year Zero and last year’s Attenberg—a telling representation of the rapid decay of the established order. Extant in its current form since just 2006, Serbia’s storied history as part of various Yugoslav republics and federations presents ample opportunity for identity turmoil, an issue the wayward youths of Clip, in all their directionless revelry, seem directly to embody and address.

Isidora Simijonovic, just 14 at the time of filming, gives an alarmingly impetuous performance as Jasna, never for a second failing to convince as this troubled girl despite her acting inexperience.

clip4Having previously worked as casting director for 2007’s The Trap, a similarly politically-conscious Serbian drama, and one made immensely powerful by its towering lead performance, it’s little surprise that Milos does her finest work in managing this cast. Isidora Simijonovic, just 14 at the time of filming, gives an alarmingly impetuous performance as Jasna, never for a second failing to convince as this troubled girl despite her acting inexperience. Hers is a tricky character to handle; initially aggressively insolent to the point of outright hideousness, she ignores the deluge of domestic issues which surround her, seeming at first to be nothing but a self-serving child. That she interests us enough to follow her until we see the real person beneath this stoic façade is entirely to the credit of Simijonovic, who carries the sensitive scenes of underlying emotional revelation without even the slightest hint of triteness. Through her, Jasna’s crucial role in this allegorical interplay finds precisely the expression Milos strives for, her powerhouse performance the incalculable crux of the drama.

Transgressively explicit in its sexuality and emotionally volatile in the calibre of its lead performance, Clip makes its points known with antagonistic furore. They are important observations on the Serbia of today, analyses of its past and likely future, examinations of the state of its youth. They are often shocking but always, crucially, true. This isn’t the sort of story we’ve never seen before, and its cyclically repetitive structure—as much a commentary as anything else in its narrative—may dull the impact after one iteration too many, but Milos has made here a debut as impressive as it is impassioned, as beneficial to cinema as, if heeded, it could be to Serbian society.

[notification type=”star”]75/100 ~ GOOD. Transgressively explicit in its sexuality and emotionally volatile in the calibre of its lead performance, Clip makes its points known with antagonistic furore.[/notification]

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.