A Cinemania Group (in Slovenia) release of a Vertigo/Emotionfilm (Slovenia)/Neue Mediapolis Film (Germany)/RTV Slovenija (Slovenia)/Filmska Kuca Bas Celik (Serbia)/4 Film (Croatia) production, in association with Filmski Sklad Republike Slovenije — Javni Sklad, Medienboard Berlin — Brandenburg, Filmski Centar Srbije, Ministry of Culture Republic of Serbia, Ministry of Culture of Croatia with participation of FS Viba Film Slovenia, E-Film Slovenia, with support of Media Development, South-East European Cinema Network, CineLink. (International sales: M-Appeal, Berlin.) Produced by Danijel Hocevar. Co-producers, Alexander Ris, Jorg Rothe, Jelena Mitrovic, Anita Juka, Amra Baksic Camo.
Directed by Damjan Kozole. Screenplay, Ognjen Svilicic, Matevz Luzar, Kozole. Camera (color, Cinemascope), Ales Belak; editors, Andrija Zafranovic, Jurij Moskon; music, Silence; production designer, Maja Moravec; costume designer, Zora Stancic; sound (Dolby Digital), Julij Zornik. Reviewed at Sarajevo Film Festival (competing), Aug. 13, 2009. (Also in Toronto, Reykjavik, Rotterdam, Pusan film festivals.) Running time: 88 MIN.
With: Nina Ivanisin, Peter Musevski, Primoz Pirnat, Marusa Kink, Uros Furst, Andrej Murenc, Aljosa Kovacic, Dejan Spasic.
(Slovenian, English, Italian dialogue)
By ALISSA SIMON
An amoral coed gets more than she bargains for when she tries prostitution as a shortcut to the good life in “Slovenian Girl.” Smoothly made eighth feature from helmer Damjan Kozole centers on secrets, lies and a single-minded quest for money. Starting as a thriller but later switching tracks, the pic has its strongest selling point in Nina Ivanisin’s performance as the title character, one of the most coolly calculating antiheroines to grace the silver screen. Fests are already lined up; niche arthouse distribs that found success with Kozole’s gritty “Spare Parts” and “Labor Equals Freedom” should book “Girl.”
Avaricious English-language student Aleksandra (Ivanisin, a theater thesp making an enthralling film debut) hails from Krsko, a grimy industrial town with high unemployment. While her failed-rocker dad (Peter Musevski, a Kozole favorite since the helmer’s 1997 black comedy “Stereotype”) believes she’s hitting the books, she’s actually moonlighting as a €200-a-trick call girl to pay off her pricey flat in Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital.
Aleksandra advertises her services (“top-level, discreet, also in English”) under the code name “Slovenian Girl.” It’s a come-on designed to appeal to the wealthy diplomats and businessmen visiting Ljubljana during Slovenia’s turn at the European Union presidency.
As the pic begins, Aleksandra’s first client, a German member of the European Parliament, keels over with a coronary. She calls for help, then helps herself to his cash. Only later does she learn that local police want to question “Slovenian Girl.”
Ratcheting up the tension, Aleksandra is also on the run from two menacing pimps (Dejan Spasic and Aljosa Kovacic) who almost break her cool — and her bones — by dangling her head-first over a high-rise balcony. Then there’s the bank, which threatens to pull the plug on her mortgage; a strict professor whom she must convince to let her take an important exam; and a vengeful spurned lover (Uros Furst).
But after so compellingly and suspensefully upping the ante of the protag’s double life, the narrative takes a less interesting detour when Aleksandra decides to chill out in Krsko, and the focus broadens to include her depressive father and his mopey bandmates. However, a smart open-ended finish seems to suggest she won’t remain in the sticks for long.
With her ebony hair, pale skin and innocent air, Ivanisin looks a bit like Snow White, yet totally convinces as a pathological liar and master manipulator. It’s a difficult part, without any backstory to explain Alexandra’s financial predicament or lack of morals, but in practically every scene, the thesp makes the character human, if not exactly sympathetic.
Sharp widescreen lensing by Ales Belak, Kozole’s regular d.p., and on-the-money cutting by vets Andrija Zafranovic and Jurij Moskon lead the good-looking production package.