★★★½ Watched 11 Apr, 2020
Without a doubt the most depressing film (Slovene or otherwise) I can remember watching for quite a while. My strong emotions are based on two facts.
1) I was born in Slovenia, where the story is set, and lived there for the first 25 years of my life.
2) My wife and I have two small kids that depend on us. I also know what it means to be looking for a job for a long time not knowing when I will be able to provide for my family again while being forced to live from the kindness of a family friend providing a small bedroom with a double bed for all four of us.
Still, it is hard for me to imagine realistically to be in the situation the main character (played convincingly by Marko Mandić) finds himself in. Of course, the director/screenwriter Vinko Möderndorfer is trying to make a point by combining many events (most probably inspired by newspaper and TV reports), into a single character to illustrate how even a sole extreme situation can drive an average person over the edge.
My feelings about Slovenia have been changing over the years, while I was living abroad and only observing how the country I used to feel so strongly about, slowly slipped towards a society I barely recognize. Present politics and economy, the two subjects that interest me the least, are a disgrace to all the memories I have growing up in the old Yugoslavia dreaming about how great it would be to have our own country. I used to look down on the corrupted and money-hungry hearts of western countries, but now I see that is a simple human condition and we Slovenes carry the same devil in our hearts given the opportunity.
Yes, there are positive examples (not in politics though) of Slovene individuals doing good and not only looking at how to exploit the fellow citizens and the system and grab as much money as they can whenever possible. But as a society as a whole, makes me feel sad how low it has fallen into mindless consumerism. I could blame that on growing up in the socialism that made everyone feel like you are part of something bigger as the majority was living on the same humble level. There was a sense of community. Yet, hidden in the shadows was the political elite, taking care of their own with things the rest of the society was not allowed to have. We kids didn’t know about all that and neither most adults (or perhaps chose to ignore it). I was always kind-hearted and naive, so it seems as a grown-up, wherever I would go, I would eventually feel exploited (mostly as an employee and sometimes as a human being). The bright exception is Finland where I was always paid fairly and treated with respect.
That is why I could feel the pain, the anger, and helplessness of the main character trying to find a way out of the hole, but instead only finding different ways to keep himself digging deeper and deeper. I imagine the main point of these types of movies is to make you look around and notice or maybe even feel for fellow people who are struggling and perhaps reach out and offer a helping hand. Growing up with a neighbor who slowly drank himself to death after his wife died (I never met her since it happened years before my time) certainly left an imprint. When he finally found his eternal rest in his sleep, I was in High School and he became my first and only dead body I saw up close and personal as his shaken tenant came to ask me if I could confirm he was not breathing anymore.
Competent acting and directing don’t hide the heavy-handed way it goes about delivering its social commentary through a series of cruel and unlucky events the main protagonist goes through in a very short period. Despite all that I’m glad I saw it. If nothing else it confirmed I still hold on to a deep-rooted grudge against Slovene politics and the social-economic system that held so much promise first decade after independence. The present government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is a disgrace beyond belief (sadly it looks like similar could be said about most Western countries), which makes me difficult to imagine how could I live there again in peace with myself. I tried for 2 years around the time that this movie came out and I felt so unwelcome that I buried my sorrow so deep I don’t know if I can ever let it go entirely.