A coolly elegant one-man police procedural slowly develops into a beguiling psychological mystery in the Slovenian genre-bender “9:06.” Scribe-helmer Igor Sterk and regular co-scripter Sinisa Dragin have created an impressive hall of mirrors that raises more questions than it answers, as it toys with ideas of guilt, identity, suicide and chance. Pic won nine awards including best film, director and screenplay at last year’s Slovenian Film Festival in Portoroz and should continue its successful run on the fest circuit before segueing to Euro broadcast slots.
Sterk has traded the more conventional narrative of his relationship drama “Tuning” for something more evocative here, with the impressively edited opening sequence — which juxtaposes several enigmatic, not necessarily directly related shots — already signaling that auds will have to pay attention to what and how things are presented.
First reels focus on weary-eyed Slovenian cop Dusan (Igor Samobor), who investigates the death of Marjan Ozim, who apparently jumped from a highway bridge. Either a bit of a loner or someone who works at the most understaffed police station in Slovenia, Dusan keeps interaction with others to a minimum.
An exception to the rule is his little daughter, Sara (Iva Markovic), and, as a consequence, his litigious ex-wife, Majda (Silva Cusin). The girl’s impertinent questions and Majda’s embittered attitude toward Dusan seem to hint at a difficult event in the past whose wounds are still festering.
Pic’s view widens a bit as the portrait of the troubled cop is further complicated by the suicide case. Dusan discovers Ozim was a well-respected though not widely known bisexual music critic and musician, who seemed to live a normal if somewhat secluded existence.
This ordinary, somewhat anonymous life seems like an oasis of peace and normality to Dusan, whose behavior increasingly resembles that of the deceased person he is investigating, starting with prolonged stays in Ozim’s apartment.
As in the work of David Cronenberg, Sterk here couples the psychology of his characters directly with their physicality, and a lot of Dusan’s slow transformation into a dead man is suggested visually rather than through dialogue.
Samobor, a veteran theater actor who bears more than a passing resemblance to Billy Bob Thornton, imbues Dusan with a combo of steely reserve and Weltschmerz that make his character’s transformation and longing for another life absolutely believable. Of the handful of supporting players, Cusin (“Estrelita”) stands out as a woman whose chance of a normal life has been forever destroyed by one great traumatic event.
Editing by Petar Markovic (“Tulpan”) is a key asset in establishing the enigmatic mood; closing sequence echoes the mysterious opening and leaves many things open to interpretation. The measured pacing of the midsection gives the story just enough room to breathe, and the pic still comes in at a crisp 71 minutes.
Aural score by Jure Ferina and Pavao Miholjevic is judiciously placed and heightens the general sense of mystery and unease without ever telling auds exactly what to think, much like the other key tech elements of the film.
Title refers to the exact time of death of the suicide victim, a motif that is repeated throughout.