Serbia’s top-grossing local film last year was “Country Between Heaven and Earth,” a picture that also copped all the national critics’ prizes. Auds apparently recognized its wartime atmosphere and identified with its dejected hero, aimlessly wandering through a world without a future. Unprepared foreign viewers, straining to get the point, could mistake it for the old Eastern European existential angst genre, with a bit of gratuitous melodrama thrown in. Offshore chances look limited.
Handsome, pensive Nikola (Svetozar Cvetkovic) is called the Champ because of his speedboat racing. He earns money as a freelance architect and lives in a large modern apartment. These qualities attract material girl Ana (Bojana Maljevic), a provocative blond beauty who falls for him.
Script meanders mellowly around Belgrade, where Nick and his thirtysomething pals uneasily party on in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a broken country pinched by the embargo. Strangely, no one seems to be suffering outwardly, and money flows as freely as the drinks. The country’s malaise is signaled by an unwilling war conscript taken away by force. Nikola’s inner torment is expressed by frequently furrowed brow.
An inordinate amount of time is given over to the crooning of local pop star Momcilo Bajagic, who composed the soundtrack and appears on camera several times. The significance of his nostalgic “Belgrade sound” will be lost offshore.
Cvetkovic, a Dusan Makavejev regular who looks like a Serbian Kurt Russell, is good at conveying silent inner turmoil but flounders in silly dialogue designed to make him seem like Mr. Cool, particularly ridiculous whenever he speaks to his girlfriend. A heart-to-heart with pal Stole brings out their mutual desperation in pic’s strongest scene.