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Till recently an University professor, a bohemian writer, a member of Belgrade's intellectual circles and a passionate opponent of the Milosevic's regime, Teja is today a manager of a big publishing house. One day a strange visitor comes uninvited to his office, carrying a big suitcase. That man is Luka, a former agent of the Serbian Security Service, now a taxi driver. Suddenly a surprising confrontation of these two men begins, which is full of incredible twists. As we get to know Luka, we find that his mission for the last ten years was to daily shadow Teja, to write reports on his behavior and acts, to watch on him even in the most intimate moments of his life. Gradually the last ten years of their lives begin to appear, the lives of these two men with quite different destinies. We see before us the chronicle of an age from the most incredible situations, often touching, sometimes irresistibly funny, to the most tragic events and the darkest war stories in the history of one ... Written by
Tragic, but at the same time hilarious homage to a dramatic decade..or two.
Profesionalac (The Professional), submitted by Serbia for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2003, features a truly remarkable story, dealing with recent, but dramatic events in Serbia/Yugoslavia. Adapted from directors' own play, Profesionalac is one of those rare Serbian movies that can actually be understandable to foreign crowd, painting a dark, yet still optimistic portrait of turbulent Serbia of the 1990's.
Through the story of Theodore (Teja) Kraj, former writer and opponent to Milosevics regime(actor Lecic was in fact a passionate opponent to the regime at the time, so his footage on some of the documentaries seen in movie is authentic!), now days a publisher company manager, and a retired Secret Service (infamous DB) agent Luka Laban, who was on Teja's case for a decade, we learn about two major epochs in modern Serbian history.
First being the repeated attempts throughout the 1990's, by impoverished nation, drawn to a civil war in Croatia and Bosnia, exhausted by dictatorship, NATO bombing, violence and censorship...to bring down the communist/nationalist dictator Slobodan Milosevic and his cataclysmic regime. Attempts that led to eventual civil uprising were spearheaded by intellectual elite and younger generations, mostly students...Teja was a university professor, in touch with both groups(both professionally and personally). As such, he was targeted by Milosevic's puppets (ideologist, hardcore communist Laban), who, apart from ''being a professional'', had a grudge on Teja of his own.
Second one being the post Milosevic's era (brought down in 2001.) of transition and privatization, wave of closing down factories and firms, workers loosing jobs...shown in the movie through the present strike of the dissatisfied workers/possibly even supporters of the former regime (which was indeed supported mostly by older people / communists, rural population and poorly educated, lowest working class). That problem actually marked that entire period of Serbia's awakening in the 2000's.
Hovewer, despite the magnificent plot, beautifully put together through the numerous flashbacks in which puzzle is finally being put together (by Teja) when he learns the background of all his grievances in the past decade, the strongest point of this movie is an emotion.
Emotion you have to share with a generation whose youth/prime was spent in fighting with a regime, whose lives were ruined by hell-bent police officers and agents, and who sacrificed all of that, voluntarily, so those to come could live free ''...kids? Your kids are exactly why I am doing all of this...'' - Teja.
Emotion so beautifully brought to us by a superb soundtrack. Melancholic bohemian Serb mandolin, mixed with actual documentary footage, leaves a participant of the events, like myself, in tears, and others, hopefully moved.
Somewhat tragic, melancholic, but also hilarious at times, The Professional is one of those European movies you should see even if you aren't Serb...especially if you aren't Serb.
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