February 25, 2009 -- This 2007 film, being released as part of the film movement collection, was made in Belgrade, Serbia, starring Serbo-Croatian actors, speaking their native language. Despite this foreign genesis, the film's story is one that could happen to anyone in the United States. Both countries have similar types of economies and health care systems. It is about a man caught in a terrifying trap. He must kill a man in order to get the money he needs to pay for an operation to save his son's life. Of course, the story turns out to be more complicated than that.
Mladen (played by Nebojsa Glogovac), an engineer for a defunct state-owned construction company, one day discovers his young son, Nemanja (Marko Djurovic) is very ill with a heart condition and will die unless he receives an operation costing over 25,000 Euros soon. Mladen and his wife, Marija (Natasa Ninkovic) a school teacher, don't have that kind of money. If they liquidated everything they own, it would amount to only 5,000 Euros. No one will loan them the money. Mladen confronts a smiling loan officer in a vast, sterile room in an international bank. The man has just turned down his loan, but is smiling. Mladen asks him if he thinks this is funny. The man replies “no,” but if he doesn't smile to all customers he will be fired. Marija puts an advertisement in the newspaper asking for donations, one of many such advertisements, but Mladen is opposed to this. Soon, he receives a call from a mysterious man, Kosta Antic (Miki Manojlovic) who offers to pay for the whole operation if Mladen will murder a man named Petar Ivkovic (Dejan Cukic). At first, Mladen refuses, but as his son's condition worsens and he doesn't see any way out, he kills the man.
The plot gets more complicated as Kosta disappears and doesn't provide the money he promised Mladen. Wracked by guilt, Mladen attends Ivkovic's funeral and becomes unintentionally connected to Ivkovic's family, including Ivkovic wife, Jelena (Anica Dobra), who he rushes to the hospital after she collapses in a public park from a prescription drug overdose. He keeps the murder a secret from his wife and children and grows more distant from them. Even when Mladen finds and confronts Kosta, his problems are far from over. He finds himself spinning down into a moral black hole from which there is no escape.
The film's plot isn't tight and Nebojsa Glogovac's performance is a little too understated, but it is an effective morality play. The plot has enough twists and turns in it to keep it interesting. It is vaguely reminiscent of Hitchock's “Strangers on a Train.” The moral dilemma that Mladen faces is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. The main outlines of the story could happen in any society that doesn't have universal health care, like the United States, which has vastly different standards of care for the poor and uninsured, while the rich and well-insured can have the best health care in the world. This dichotomy is nicely highlighted when Mladen's wife, Marija takes a tutoring job at the home of a wealthy family. She tells Mladen that any of the family's paintings or other expensive trinkets would pay for their son's operation. This film rates a B.
Also on the same Film Movement DVD is an award-winning short animated film, “Fallen” and a clever, award-winning commercial for Stella Artois Beer (a sponsor of the Film Movement series) called “Devil's Island,” featuring well-known actor Ron Perlman (star of the “Hellboy” movies). “Fallen” features people falling from a great height and the strange non-reaction of most witnesses. For more on the Film Movement series, check out the official Film Movement website.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.