Adapted from a prize-winning contemporary novel, this ponderous parable about a country — and a life — in transition, topples under the weight of its own ambitions. “Upside Down,” debuting helmer Igor Ivanov’s look at conditions in the independent Republic of Macedonia during the 1990s, aspires to the social criticism of the 1960s Yugoslav “Black Wave,” but comes off as pretentious. Pic received development funding from the U.S.-based Global Film Initiative, so it could wind up in cinematheques Stateside.
Yarn unfolds in flashback, as circus acrobat Jan (Milan Tociniovski) returns to Skopje on “the train of death.” He recalls his joyless youth with an alcoholic father and mother who died young. As an older student, he lusts after classmate Lucija (Sanja Trajkovic), a comely seductress with a penchant for poetry and a mysterious connection to the gangsterish cripple known as “the boss.” Their fraught affair plays out against a backdrop of political demonstrations and nationalist campaigns. After his father’s framed for murder, Jan conveniently finds a way out of town with Circus Entropa. Tech package looks expensive, but acting relies heavily on sullen glares and overemphatic gestures.