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Simon Read [Film Festival 11.17.09] Slovenia movie review drama

Year: 2009
Directors: Damjan Kozole
Writers: Damjan Kozole & Matevz Luzar & Ognjen Svilicic
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 8 out of 10

Slovenian Girl is a superb dark-comedy/thriller/drama from director Damjan Kozole, starring Nina Ivanisin in the title role as student and part-time call-girl Sasha. She likes to have the best in life, buying a swanky apartment in the city of Ljubljana, sweet talking her university professor into granting her an exam re-sit, and accepting the occasional handout from her well intentioned father Edo; whose rock band 'Electroshock' are reforming and planning a gig at a local club. Sasha's troubles begin when she visits a hotel to meet a client, only for the old guy to suffer a heart attack from too much Viagra, and leave her to deal with the consequences. Considering he was a UN ambassador, the consequences run pretty deep.

Sasha uses the pseudonym, 'Slovenian Girl' when working, and the police know it. When they start to track her down she has to quit her main source of income, and the mortgage payments loom. She tries working on the sly, only for two menacing pimps to come along and attempt a kidnap, after which she begs help from her ex, Gregor, whom she also owes a significant amount of cash. Gregor is initially annoyed at her cry for help; after all isn't this the girl that strung him along for years? After some make-up sex, he answers her mobile phone and, fishing among the dozens of condoms in her handbag, realizes what she's become: The girl in the headlines of every newspaper in the country - Slovenian Girl.

Perhaps what works best about this film is that it feels almost completely natural. The performances, direction and script are flawless in creating a story which is believable; even at the point that Sasha's world begins to crumble. At the same time the pace is great as it's in no rush to advance the plot, but rather keep things ticking over evenly and logically, as events unfold and take us to an unexpected but very pleasing conclusion. Ivanisin injects Sasha with much humanity, despite the above suggesting that she's selfish or amoral, she's actually an entirely sympathetic character. The one element of her personality that really comes through is how tired she is of fighting, as life is one hard step after another for her. She works hard at school, she works hard to please clients ("I'm worth every penny") and she travels by train to visit her father in the next town over. All she really wants in her own place, and time to relax or, in her own words, "I just want a normal life." Don't we all.

Slovenian Girl is also filled with real characters, as each actor brings something interesting to their part. Her father is a good humored former rock and roller, her mother is "an ambitious, greedy bitch", best friend Vesna is a practical and innocent student, and even Sasha's clients are a pretty varied bunch. I mention this only really because it's pretty rare to meet characters in a film who do seem wholly individual, and not cast from a recognisable mould. Kozole also wisely chooses to show us only the beginning and end of each session Sasha is hired for, so we're not thrust into intense sex scenes that might have knocked the carefully constructed mien out of balance, but instead see her meeting these guys, and then coming to terms with the date afterwards, anxiously smoking cigarettes and ordering coffee at the local cafe. The humour of the film felt spot-on too; as Sasha's lies are based on the same made-up story that she re-hashes to suit each situation, and it works to great comic effect. Edo provides many laughs too, as his band are eagerly preparing for their comeback gig, and he equates their new line-up with Bob Dylan and Joe Cocker, "We were there first guys!" There's also the representation of the police themselves, which is a procession of black trucks, cop-cars and SWAT vans zooming about the city streets. We never see anyone exit the vehicles, instead they just drive around all day and night like crazy and to no end. It's difficult to explain, but there's something very surreal and silly about it.

Overall I'd recommend this based simply on it's original story, dark comedy and excellent structure and writing; as well as superb performances and direction. The outcome of the film could be seen as somewhat open-ended, but I found it bittersweet and touching, as if we're allowed to imagine these characters continuing to interact after the film is over, and carry the story on for the rest of their lives. Great drama is a pretty rare thing, and this is a rare example.

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Hal (12 years ago) Reply

sounds interesting. How do you reckon it compares to Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience? some similar elements


projectcyclops (12 years ago) Reply

I have to confess I've not seen Girlfriend Experience yet, it screened at the Edinburgh Film Festival but I didn't have the time to check it out. Will put in on my list though :)

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