IFFR 2012 Review: CLIP

Associate Editor, Features; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
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IFFR 2012 Review: CLIP
(Warning: this film has gross content. GROSS!)

Serbia is certainly a country to keep track of film-wise. With a rich tradition of grand, beautiful cinema, an ingrained wry sense of humor and a history that is tragic and eclectic, it should maybe not be a surprise when gems appear from this region. In recent years we have seen gorgeous fairytales, shocking explicit dramas and one time we even got a cyberpunk animation.

Screened at the International Film Festival Rotterdam as a Tiger Award nominee, "Clip" (original Serbian title: "Klip") belongs squarely in the shocking explicit drama category. Director Maja Miloš' first narrative feature shocks, is explicit, and definitely a drama. Nothing gorgeous here except the young teenagers spiraling towards rock-bottom on a diet of strong drugs, strong booze and ever more extreme sex. Think of Larry Clark's "Kids" but set in a dire concrete slum in Serbia and you're not a million miles off the mark.

Worth a visit? Read on...

The Story:

Jasna is a young teenager living in a hellish-looking concrete city-block. Her father has a terminal disease and needs constant care, provided by her mother and younger sister. Jasna however refuses to help, or in anyway grow towards a future of drudgery which is the only thing held in front of her. Under the guise of "studying with friends" she always escapes to a seemingly endless string of parties.

When she becomes attached to a local drug-dealing bully and "successfully" becomes his girlfriend, she starts recording all sorts of clips on her mobile phone. Meant as fun moments to share with friends, what's recorded does not paint a pretty picture at all...

The Movie:

Want to see a VERY pretty young actress prance around in slutty outfits, erotic lingerie or just naked? Go watch "Clip". Want to feel dirty about it? Then realize that the girl you're watching is only fourteen years old.

By now I can read festival catalog jargon like the best of them, so when I read about a "striking and fearless performance" by the lead actress that is a guarantee she'll get undressed. But before you think this is a scandalous piece of exploitation, it very obviously is not. Maja Miloš has made every scene with skin in it as realistic and unglamorous as possible. The characters in the story may think they're acting like sex goddesses, but they come across as sordid, derailed and desperate. Yet the film also refuses to judge them, as it shows these vices are probably the only bits of fun these kids will ever have to look forward to. Their surroundings are amongst the ugliest ever put on film, and their lives a daily chore.

Hell, if anything or anyone is judged harshly it's the Serbian school system because all teachers never comment on the teenagers' frequent absences, nor do they seem to mind noisy and unruly behavior when the kids DO show up in class. With parents too busy with scraping together some measly salary (or in Jasna's case, stuck in a medical situation) there is no safety net whatsoever. Any experience Jasna receives in the film comes from peer pressure, and her group has some very unsavory peers in it. But just as you think the general message is that these teens are evil you do get to see the occasional glimmer of humanity, for example when the umpteenth sex game the leads try out suddenly turns into some honest intimacy for a change.

Speaking of sex, this film is VERY explicit. There is some hardcore oral sex in it and even the simulated sex goes pretty far, including anal and bondage games.
Leading actress Isidora Simijonovic was indeed only fourteen when all this was shot, meaning that any genital close-ups or real sex were done by adult stand-ins. Still, what she does do herself goes pretty damn far. Each and every scene where she shows skin was meticulously prepared by director Maja Miloš and had Isidora's parents present on the set during filming. Imagine: this must surely have made for some interesting discussions.

But by only focusing on all the sordid ugly sex (even though the film positively wallows in it) I'd be doing Isidora Simijonovic a disservice, because she is obviously a very gifted actress and she gives an excellent performance here. Most of the young actors are impressive but Isidora really stands out, giving it her all and providing credibility to the movie all by herself.

In fact, "Clip" is far from being a bad film. But unfortunately it never gets to be a great one either. There is just nothing here that I haven't seen before, only the mix is different and it is a lot more sexually explicit. I probably had a group of teenagers like this in my school when I was that age. They were acting like assholes then (even without smartphones), and the only thing that "Clip" tells me is that given the right set of circumstances, similar teens still act like assholes now.


What to make of this... "Clip" is certainly competently made and bravely acted by its young cast. But I never felt like I took anything with me after I finished watching the screening. I basically saw that teenagers who gravitate to bullies are the same everywhere in the world apparently, and that's it.

Audiences at the International Film Festival Rotterdam awarded "Clip" a 3.4 out of 5, just so you know people here are a bit more generous towards this one than I am..

UPDATE: Well lo-and-behold, "Clip" won itself a Tiger Award!
Congratulations to director Maja Miloš.

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More about Klip

MartenFebruary 1, 2012 10:56 AM

Over the past few years I read about the following Serbian movies:

-Made in Serbia

-Life and Death of a P0rno Gang

-A Serbian Film

-And now....Clip

And we all know what all of these films have in common. Are these the only type of movies the Serbian film industry has been churning out or are these the only films from Serbia the European film festivals are giving exposure to?

Ard VijnFebruary 1, 2012 11:49 AM

You forgot "Devil's Town".

But your statement is hardly fair. "Made in Serbia" and "Life and Death of a Porno Gang" are made by the same team, one film following from having made the other. And around that time Serbia also produced the utterly stunning, beautiful "Tears for Sale" and the impressive "Technotise: Edit & I", which were shown at several festivals worldwide.

MartenFebruary 1, 2012 12:33 PM

You're correct....Made In Serbia & Life and Death are sort of companion films. Never heard of Tears for Sale but noticed that it's going for less than 4GBP so I might pick it up out of curiosity.

kidlazarusFebruary 2, 2012 6:32 AM

Must agree with Ard, it's rather difficult to make a blanket assessment of the Serbian film industry (or former Yugoslavian industry) using a limited collection of movies.

If possible check out titles such as Rane (The Wounds), Lepa sela lepo gore (Pretty Village, Pretty Flame), Apsolutnih sto (Absolute Hundred), Klopka (The Trap), Bure baruta (Cabaret Balkan), Kordon (The Cordon), Turneja (the Tour), etc.

Ard VijnFebruary 3, 2012 5:31 AM

I never got around to write a review proper for TEARS FOR SALE, also because I had seen the regular version while a longer cut was also doing the festival circuit. But here is a brief write-up I did as part of my 2010 overview last year:


One day I will own a BluRay containing both versions (I hope) but for now that cheap DVD does suffice.

I do get your point though: even TEARS FOR SALE and TECHNOTISE are a wee bit more sexually explicit than your average Hollywood production. But I don't get the impression this is used as a "lure" to get more people to watch films. Rather, it's part of a very down-to-earth view of humanity I see in most Serb films, same as with their black sense of humor.

neilthemessengerJuly 3, 2012 11:59 PM

To Ard Vijn, the only way I can respond to this is by seeing the movie. I haven't seen the movie. I hope you get the opportunity to speak to the director if you think the director has done a bad thing by making the movie and showing it at film festivals. I haven't seen the movie and from the way you describe the movie, I don't expect to see it.