"Barbarians" is a teenage drama about coming of age in a world where there is no opportunity. A portrait of a young generation growing up in a society of lost values. Luka is a young man on...
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"Barbarians" is a teenage drama about coming of age in a world where there is no opportunity. A portrait of a young generation growing up in a society of lost values. Luka is a young man on the verge of adulthood who leads a group of local second league football supporters, with his best friend Flash. Troubled by his parole, family problems and a secret relationship with a girlfriend of one of the football players, Luka desperately tries to fit in.Written by
Reasonable for a first feature but lacking edge...
This is the first feature film by a bit over 30 years old Serbian writer and director Ivan Ikic. A tale of growth, alienation and a search for identity of a teenager without proper role models to guide him in his endeavors. The film was advertised as a story of football hooliganism, but it is only a theme of context for youth estrangement in a modern Eastern-European society in a smaller town.
Luka and his family are refugees from Kosovo, his father is missing, mother is depressed, angry and desperately unemployed in new conditions. Luka is being harassed by social workers and parole officers. The loss of a home, and father of the family overshadows Luka's rootlessness and senseless meanderings. Zeljko Markovic is relatively credible as a moping, clueless kid.
The intensity and threat of violence of the first scene projects an ominous ambiance into the rest of the film. Luka and his best buddy Flash are buying a gun, and testing it, but Luka is broke. He hurls insults and threats at the seller. The macho atmosphere of the scene predicts blood and violent deaths, but instead the director just follows that with aimless wanderings and general pointlessness of the main characters. The guys are bored and looking for danger and at least the director manages to convey that. Far more relevant than family, school, work or any creed for the two guys and their pals is supporting the local team. It is the only thing both do with passion. The culture of masculinity and the need to improve your position in a social pecking order colors most communication. Luka is impulsive, angry and depressed enough to not care about his safety and challenge bigger roosters. Narrative tension is built upon the danger of social repercussions to his posturing.
The film barely touches on the theme of football hooliganism, and is somewhat more descriptive of fanatical support of a football team. My own initial interest was a depiction of Serbian hooliganism, but the film just mirrors the backgrounds and general teen alienation behind devoting yourself to your team to such a significant degree. Serbian hooligans are some of the most famous for nationalism and racism in the whole Europe, and the film certainly describes bleak economic situations and harsher living conditions than in most of EU side of Europe. The most hated opponents are since the wars and bombings of last decades Croatia, Albania and USA. Flags are being waved and nationalist undertones are visible, racist xenophobia is being hinted at in one scene. Racism is shown in its typical insults and "banana throwing" -level so common still in many European leagues.
On the whole the depiction of meaningless alienation and social misery is not even close in its desperate hopelessness and grim destinies quite common in for example Finnish urban portrayals like Vuosaari and Bad Country (Paha Maa) but lacks subtlety and sense of irony of the more masterful Danish portrayals of existential modern angst. Tobias Lindholm, Thomas Vinterberg and Nicholas Winding-Refn have so many more nuances in their tales of social alienation and underworld and desperate characters looking for self-respect, and mainly sense of humor and tiny bits of humane credibility.
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