Shallow skater dudes imitate “Jackass” stunts and while away time until one leaves for college in the tedious Serbian slacker drama “Tilva Ros.” Though freshman scripter-helmer Nikola Lezaic aspires to say something about contempo Serbian life, his reliance on U.S. subcultures and indie pop songs speak more to the globalization of a certain brand of American idiocy. Auds partial to Lezaic’s influences, particularly Larry Clark and Harmony Korine, may enjoy watching stupid people doing stupid things, and the pic’s big win in Sarajevo will spur fest play, but theatrical distribution is unlikely.
“Tilva Ros” means “red hill” in Wallachian, referring to the copper-rich area surrounding the depressed mining town of Bor, in eastern Serbia (also the setting of Oleg Novkovic’s “White White World”). Teens Marko, aka Toda (Marko Todorovic), and Stefan (Stefan Dordevic) are best friends and founders of the local skateboard club Kolos, whose members bat about racist remarks while imitating hip-hop culture. Most of the performers, locals like Lezaic himself, play themselves to a large degree.
Stefan’s partiality to Dunja (one of the few completely fictional characters, according to the press notes, played by Dunja Kovacevic) causes tensions between the chums, exacerbating Toda’s stewing resentment that his pal will leave for college in Belgrade in the fall. The jealousy is further complicated by a difference in class: Stefan’s dad drives a Mercedes and is active in union politics, while Toda’s father is a worker in the smelting plant.
As the summer winds to a close, Toda increasingly acts out, paralleling the growing unrest in town as disgruntled laborers protest the area’s depressed conditions. Lezaic keeps the political angle in the background, which is a shame, since it’s far more interesting than the teens. In part, that’s the director’s intention: This final summer together marks the last time the kids can shrug off contemplating anything other than alcohol and their navels. Even if auds concede this point, the tiresome shenanigans merely celebrate nihilism, unintentionally exposing it as the empty philosophy of the immature.
Certain scenes can be excruciatingly dull, such as one with a very drunk kid (Nenad Stanisavljevic) repetitively whining about just wanting to skate. Throughout the pic, Lezaic interpolates footage Todorovic and Dordevic shot of themselves in 2005-06, imitating “Jackass” pranks like piercing a cheek or throwing balls at their diaper-clad privates. Rather than revealing the hollowness of such stunts, Lezaic positions them as a cool, anarchic rite of passage.
Occasionally a scene stands out for being well filmed, especially a sequence in a supermarket (very Gus Van Sant) in which the kids wreak havoc while skating through the aisles. Also worthy of praise is the way Lezaic integrates the environment — with its strip mines and nondescript streets — into the kids’ lives, even if his story isn’t up to such potentially intriguing parallels.