No Way to Survive by France Hatron

in 7th Wiesbaden Festival of Central and Eastern European Film - goEast

by France Hatron

In the 7th edition of the Go East Film Festival that took place in Wiesbaden (Germany), the FIPRESCI jury gave its award to a second feature film, The Trap (Klopka, Serbia, Germany, Hungary, 2007) by Srdan Golubovic, son of director Predag Golubovic. The Trap also got “The Best Director Prize” from the main jury.

In post Milosevic Belgrade a couple learns their child is gravely ill and needs surgery in Berlin by a very famous doctor as quickly as possible. It will cost the family 26,000 Euros. Construction worker Mladen and his teacher wife have no way of raising such a sum. They ask their friends, their relatives and their bank but nobody wants or can help them.

Their only chance is to put an ad in a newspaper. The father is contacted by phone and offered a special deal: earning 30,000 Euros to kill one of the local mafia. Mladen needs some thinking before making his decision. He finally refuses when realizing who the target is. His child’s condition is getting worse and worse. The desperate father changes his mind not telling his wife. One morning at 7 a.m., he reaches the place where he has to pick up the instructions and the gun. Then the mortal challenge can begin… Mladen achieves his part of the work but the contract isn’t respected on either side: he is not paid. So, he starts chasing the man behind the murder. This is the first step towards the family’s destruction. Mladen tries to survive in this downward spiral.

This story is based upon a 1983 novel by Srdan Golubovic, who has changed lots of details to deliver a wonderful psychodrama. The screenplay is solid and the objective shooting process creates a constant dramatic intensity. Nebojsa Glovocac’s acting is very touching, always on the margin between kindness and nastiness, reason and madness, resignation and deep despair, avoiding caricature and pathos. Anica Dobra (the lovely blonde) gives a wonderfully realistic performance. Like Mladen, she’s a victim of the system and she’s very conscious of that. In fact, both fates are very similar. Golubovic’s tone is a new tone, very different from Kusturica’s comic clichés. The tragic dimension of the story is shown in the scene with the banker whose unconcerned reaction when learning of the serious illness of his clients’ son is terrible. As the disappointed Mladen cannot understand this behavior, the banker answers: “Every banker smiles because it’s a bank for foreign customers, and we always have to smile at foreign customers!”

This movie doesn’t only deliver a social portrait. Actually The Trap also deals with the choice between human or moral issues and with redemption. It could even have presented a religious dimension if the parents were believers. But the director’s analysis doesn’t stop there. The tragic portrayal of this small family illustrates the way the Serbian middle class tries to survive, eight years after the bombardment of Belgrade, between poverty on one side and fresh money on the other. The war is over only on the surface…

In fact, this story is an individual and collective drama that makes visible our lack of freedom and human misery. Only our illusions make us free. Srdan Golubovic puts the audience in a similar suffering position in the same way Géla Babluani does with 13 Tzameti (Tzameti) . There is no way of escaping the process of identification. Whatever your culture or social class, you can imagine the situation and be sure your own decision would be the same as Mladen’s. And what would your thoughts be after killing a man? Mladen confesses his guilt because he has to be redeemed. Now his son is out of danger, life or death has not the same meaning now, compared to the situation at the beginning of the film. He feels so dirty that he is losing his soul. The audience as well, doesn’t come out of this story unharmed.