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Educator and those educated in a home for juvenile delinquents in the same test: approach, take a peek into his soul to become a man. The story of a minor, neglected boys-offenders and their teachers who try to reject the old methods of rehabilitation. Written by
"Specijalno vaspitanje" (aka Special Education, 1977) was Goran Markovic's directorial big screen debut, and arguably his best movie to date - in any case, it placed him firmly on the map as a gifted and promising Serbian film maker and brought him country-wide recognition. It tells a simple story - we follow the trials and tribulations of Pera 'Trta' (masterfully brought to life by Slavko Stimac, a prodigal child actor who by his teens already had an enviable big screen and TV career
which was to stall in later years, only to be resurrected by his
tour-de-force performance in Kusturica's 1995 'Underground'). Pera is a smalltown youth from somewhere around Belgrade, a lovable petty thief and a pick-pocket who, after his soliciting mother gets dispatched to a mental institution, finds himself under the arm of social services and in a youth correction home. There, among a host of initially hostile but colourful characters he befriends Ljupce (Aleksandar Bercek), a handsome yet antisocial lad who won't speak - he is apparently scarred by witnessing his own mother's murder in the past - and soon they become inseparable, Pera assuming the role of Ljupce's interpretor and public relations manager to the rest of the world, girls in particular. They are both under supervision of Zarko Munizaba (Bekim Fehmiu), one of the team leaders at the institution, a troubled character himself, stubborn but sensible and caring, and known to do things his own way and not by the book. The story inexorably leads us to its tragic conclusion - after a series of misadventures and joyrides in stolen cars Ljupce, who has seemingly just stepped on a pathway to emotional recovery gets killed in a freak road accident in the film's pivotal scene, leaving Pera and Zarko to mourn him, bereaved, quietly smoking and sharing each other's company and comfort in the film's poignant closing frames.
Markovic treats his characters with knowing affection and the subject matter (friendship, loss, and the difficult business of growing up on society's edge) with utmost care - to which the whole cast, newcomers and veterans alike, respond with arresting acting enthusiasm, helped along by a good script and smooth mis-en-scene. The film remains an example of engaging movie storytelling which, although bitter-sweet in approach, doesn't shy away from gritty realism - and is to date one of the milestones in Serbian and Yugoslav cinema, becoming, quite deservedly, a big hit with both the critics and the cinema going audiences upon its release in 1977. Clearly it hasn't lost any of its appeal or relevance over the years and is well worth checking out today.
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