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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Pokrajina St.2 is an unusual thriller by conventional American
standards. There are only a few acts of violence portrayed in the film,
but what we do see is fairly graphic and the film shows a real empathy
with the victims and their struggle to live. The showdown between the
villain and hero is also quite subdued.
***BEGIN SPOILER*** Without completely spoiling the ending, let us just say that the hero does not kick ass. ***END SPOILER***
The premise of the film is that a couple of small-time thieves in post-communist Slovenia burgles a retired general's house and stumbles upon some documents that show the general was culpable for a mass killing of civilians committed by Communist partisans after World War II. The retired general asks one of his loyal formal attendants to retrieve the documents and kill the thieves. The younger thief, Sergej, does not quite realize the danger he is in even after his mentor, Polde, is found hanged.
Pokrajina St.2 poses an interesting contrast between the younger Sergej and the actions of the partisans after World War II. The partisans' rigid adherence to their ideology were willing to kill anyone remotely suspected of betraying the cause or the nation (the film makes clear to us that the "traitors" were killed without any kind of trial). In the present day, the attendant goes on a killing spree to protect the image of his cause (the film makes clear he was no self-interest at stake). On the other hand, Sergej does not seem motivated by anything other than his shallow desires. He does not spend any time with his fiancée because he spends his nights burgling with Polde and entire days in sexual trysts with Jasna. (we see him at one point masturbating while watching a documentary about World War II atrocities). In a perverse way the villains are more noble than the hero.
This is a strong film with good performances by all of the actors involved and strong direction by Vinko Moderndorfer. Its major flaw is an ending that hits us over the head with its denunciation of its Strelnikov-like fanatical villains.
I recently saw this at the 2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival. Co-produced with Serbia this film is Slovenia's official submission to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. From writer/director Vinko Moderndorfer this is a story about two men, one older in Polde (Janez Hocevar) and one younger in Sergej (Marko Mandic) who moonlight as burglars. They target the home of a wealthy former communist general (Janez Skof) to steal a valuable painting called "Landscape no.2" that had in itself been stolen from the national museum and spent the last 50 years in the generals possession. Polde's plan is to ransom the painting back to the general for $10,000. In the burglary, Sergej comes across a wall safe and steals the cash it contains as well as a some documents that he doesn't realize implicate highly placed persons in the post-war executions of Nazi collaborators. The general enlists one of his loyalists, a sinister former secret service exterminator known as Instructor (Slobodan Custic) to track down the stolen documents and eliminate the thieves. With Barbara Cerar as Sergej's fiancé Magda, Maja Martina Merljak as Sergej's sex pal Jasna and Jaka Lah as Sergej's apartment neighbor Damjan. This could have been a good thriller and Moderndorfer is obviously a talented filmmaker but the sex and violence are so over the top that it becomes ridiculous. I would give it a 6.5 out of 10.
When you think Slovenian films can't surprise you any more... than
you're pretty much correct, actually!
But before continuing, a warning: what follows isn't a review, it is a way of putting out the feelings this film left me with after seeing it about an hour ago. So, how did it make me feel? It made me tempted of suing, both writer and the director (sic) for wasting almost two hours of my life.
Awful, horrible banalization, stereotypization of EPIC proportions, completely unneeded accentuation of sex and violence... could go on, but... This film is bad in SO many levels, you can't even appreciate otherwise great actors.
It starts quite promising, but ends up as a simply stupid wannabe- slasher movie that leaves you with nothing more than a deep hate for the writer. I feel sorry for the actors who wasted their time and fine talent with such a skrapucalo (can't find an appropriate translation, terribly sorry). Making this story from otherwise deeply intriguing and dramatization- worth theme is nothing short of a crime.
The only thing that would make sense is, and I'm heavily speculating here, the Slovenian Film Found (financier) at the time was probably in the hands of our lovely right-wing politics, which likes to take any opportunity to modify or relativize understanding of history. In that context, the script might have made some sense (watch out for the old communist elite!), until the writer screws them up as well.
Now, no one would want to see this. It fails as a reviewer of history, it fails as a study of characters and relationships, and it fails as a slasher. No one should be wasting their time on this.
There are some properly good Slovenian movies. This isn't one. It makes you not wanting to see another one for a very long time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Firstly I have to say that I will do my best to leave politics out of
this comment. This is perhaps an impossible task baring in mind that
the film's main topic is the massacre of Nazi collaborators that
occurred in Slovenia (then Yougoslavia) after the second world war. It
also pictures the ex-communist elite as the main villains in the story
and quite openly supports right-wing ideas. For instance a Serbian
kills one gay man, two non-married pregnant women (one of very
promiscuous behavior) and shows Polde's family as the only positive
characters in the film.
OK, let's try to leave the past which divides people in Slovenia in two halves and the revisionist view on this issue in this film behind.
First of all, Pokrajina t. 2 (landscape nr. 2) is supposedly a thriller. But the plot itself is so stereotypical and obvious that makes the film look like a Mel Brooks burlesque! The characters are not developing throughout the film and do not seem like real people but are just thrown into the film - why are Sergej and Polde robbing houses (and Polde says at the beginning that they will only take what the General/communist has stolen!!), why is Sergej divided between Jasna and Majda? why is he all the time saying that his mother is half dead (Slavoj iek could say something about that) - is this perhaps suppose to be funny? etc.
Let's continue with the stereotypes: both women are pregnant when murdered so the murder looks even more bloody and the killer more ferocious. Cheap trick with no sense. Why all the sex? Sure, there is no Slovenian film without sex (sex sales!), but does sex play a part in this film? Why is it important for? Sergej just shows up at Jasna's door at then they have sex. OK, she represents the prostitute and Magda the mother, but the main reason for sex is the body of the film débutant Maja Martina Merljak. Sure she can't act but what the hack - she's got great tits! The killings look like they were taken from a slasher movie but they are supposedly done by a professional hit-man. No sense again. I could continue with this kind of examples but you get the picture.
Baring in mind the awful - that's an euphemism - acting (perhaps only Slobodan Custic as the Instructor looks quite OK) and again very stereotypical directing, editing and photography of the film I can easily say that this is the worst Slovenian film ever made. If it was regarded as a parody then that would be a completely different story ...
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