"The Trap": The Belgrade Tragedy By Tadeusz Szczepański

in 11st Sofia International Film Festival

by Tadeusz Szczepanski

The Grand Prix of the 11th Sofia International Film Festival was given to a Serbian film — actually, a Serbian-German-Hungarian co-production — entitled The Trap (Klopka), directed by Srdjan Golubovic. In no way diminishing the accomplished direction of the 35-year-old Serb, one must also highlight the achievements of the two screenwriters of the film — Melina Pota Koljevic and Srdjan Koljevic — for it was their inventiveness that decided its success; or perhaps the success should be attributed to yet another person, namely the author of the novel, Nenad Teofilovic, who was the first to tell this unusual story. It was so attractive and, at the same time, so deeply set in the present reality of common people that the cinema simply had to make use of it.

The Trap is a story about very realistic events, but their implications, and the gravity of the film’s characters’ choices, have echoes of Greek tragedy. The film presents an average, modest family — led by an engineer who heads a collapsing state enterprise, and his wife, an English teacher — who suddenly face real tragedy: They learn that their only son suffers from a serious heart disease. An operation in a Berlin clinic may save his life, but its cost (26,000 Euro) is prohibitively expensive. An appeal for help in the press results in a proposition to enter into an unusual contract: A mysterious stranger with a devilish appearance is willing to offer the needed money in exchange for committing a murder. Simply put: The life of an inconvenient man for the life of the child. Thus, when all other means fail, the father makes a decision fraught with consequences, which leads him into the titular trap.

The action, full of sudden shifts, proceeds in tandem with the moral and mental disintegration of the unwilling murderer. Troubled by his guilty conscience, deceived by his “employer” — who turns out to be bankrupt — and abandoned by his wife, the man gradually loses control over his own life.

The screenwriters managed to tie a real Gordian knot around the fate of a few people, whose lives merge and lead to a disastrous end. Through the skilful choice of recurring setting elements, the director created the claustrophobic atmosphere of a trap from which there is no escape. Under the guise of a thrilling but fully credible action film, the creators of The Trap showed not only the ethical drama of the protagonist but also the society of the post-Communist era, full of economic contrasts — and one in which the lack of money to save his child drives an honest man to murder.

In Golubovic’s film, set in the streets of the contemporary Belgrade, there are no signs of the recent war, which isn’t present even in memories. It is, however, difficult not to get the impression that the event casts an invisible shadow over the life of the characters, infecting their behaviour with a germ of evil. It is conspicuous in the loss of the moral sensitivity to human death, in the consent of the desperate father to this particular way of saving his child that comes too easily, and finally in the right to revenge, which is eventually exercised by the wretched murderer.

The Trap is a rare example of a film whose thrilling plot not only serves as vacuous entertainment, but also leads us to the depths of human soul and becomes the drama of consciousness.