Synopsis: A rebellious teenager’s relentless exploration of her newfound sexuality is this theme to this bold and very explicit drama. Fourteen-year-old Jasna (the mesmerizing Isidora Simojonivic) lives in a dreary Belgrade suburb with her critically ill father and a nagging mother, so she flees with her gang of friends into a world of drug and alcohol-filled parties, always recording the debauchery in clips on her cell phone. She seeks comfort through her thuggish boyfriend, but he treats her as nothing more than a roughed-up sexual plaything, and as her loneliness mounts, Jasna finds herself unable to control her desires…or her life. Winner of the Tiger Award for Best Film at the Rotterdam Film Festival, the film has generated controversy all over the world (and has been banned in Russia) for its raw, graphic sexuality among the teenage cast. Like a Serbian take on Larry Clark’s KIDS, CLIP is courageous, uncompromising filmmaking and marks an extraordinary debut for its gifted writer-director Maja Milos.
eyelights: the hot kissing scene. the room-shaking basslines.
eyesores: the joylessness of the world we’re immersed in.
‘Klip’ is the story of Jasna, a Katie Holmes-like teenager like probably many others: she hates her home life, has no interest in school, spends most of her time taking pictures and making videos on her cel phone, talks trash about other girls and pines for the attentions of a young man. To distract herself, she likes to go out in the evening with her friends, dancing and carousing.
I have no understanding of what Serbia is like, politically or culturally, but ‘Klip’ made me think of ‘Christiane F.’ in some ways. Whereas the latter focuses quite heavily on Christiane’s downward spiral into drug addiction, the accent here is on the emotional needs and sexual behaviour of our protagonist. Both are about the development of unhealthy teenaged relationships.
Jasna is unable to cope with the fact that her father is bed-ridden at home, suffering from a terminal disease. She’s completely clammed up, incapable of dealing with the emotions that this brings up. So she distracts herself, tying up her happiness in temporary comforts such as alcohol, drugs and sex – that is, until she seeks salvation in one particular boy, an @$$hole vandal with anger issues.
Desperate to get his attention and then sustain it, she offers him sex – not an uncommon behaviour when obsession and low self-esteem cross paths. Of course he takes advantage of this, and of her. And so begins a terrible dance between them, as he constantly discards her and her emotions and she attempts to recapture him, allowing him to abuse her and her heart.
Essentially, ‘Klip’ shows us the start of an abusive relationship. By the final frame, it’s quite apparent that this is not going to be good, that he will likely beat her into submission, that she will allow it and that they will take shortcuts to “happiness” through drugs and alcohol together, likely destroying their lives. It wouldn’t be uncommon; it happens all the time, around the world.
Even though Jasna isn’t exactly an endearing character, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her: she is merely lost and doesn’t know how to find herself, is incapable of coping with her feelings – and when she tries to share them is ignored, pushed away. She could be any teenager, it’s just that she doesn’t have access to the tools she needs to manage her life and move on from what ails her.
In fact, her reality is pretty grim. The landscape is grey, cold, the school she goes to is extremely poor, devoid of warmth, and feels more like a cage than a scholastic institution. Her peers are as obsessed with the ephemeral as she is and she has no role models that she can relate to, thus has no guidance and no understanding of what life has in store for her and what she can expect from it.
Frankly, if I were a parent or guardian, I’d be slightly worried about my kids after watching this. To me, ‘Klip’ is nestled somewhere in between ‘Kids‘ and ‘Thirteen’; not nearly as disturbing as the first but certainly more so than the latter. I would be concerned that the life my teenager was leading out of sight (as all teens do) might be more than he/she can handle, and that I couldn’t help.
In particular, there’s the sexual exploration that Jasna partakes in: she uses sex as currency, with no limits put in place and no responsibilities taken. She mistakes sex for love and will allow anything for the sake of love, if it means that she will feel a semblance of appreciation or closeness. She doesn’t realize that there’s only so much that she can trade on before she runs out of currency.
‘Klip’ is extremely graphic and should not be watched by anyone who is uncomfortable with seeing unsimulated sex. It is, in fact, simulated, but in such a way that it’s virtually indistinguishable from the real thing, thanks to half the the film taking place on cel phone cameras, and due to first-time writer-director Maja Milos’ perfectly calculated camera work. If one weren’t busy deconstructing the scenes, the acts would seem quite real.
From a technical standpoint, the film seemed deftly constructed to me. Milos struck a fine balance between showing us Jasna’s world on her phone and through a regular camera lens, and the way the story unfolds and is told worked the whole way through – at no point did it lag or feel rushed. I also found each scene filmed and pieced together in an appropriate way; I would not have guessed that this was Milos’ first.
The soundtrack was also quite good, all things considered. One scene stood out, though: when Jasna goes dancing in the club, the basslines basically rumbled the room, sounding quite like a real dance club would – all bass and beats. Frankly, it was pretty impressive given that I suspect it was a low budget film. But it was LOUD; I was worried that my neighbours might complain about the thumping and decided to turn it down.
All in all, I found ‘Klip’ solid all around. It’s not light fare, but it’s done particularly well. Was the graphic sex necessary, or gratuitous? It’s hard to say. It seems appropriate to show the extent of what Jasna would do for love, but perhaps there might have been other ways to establish this. Having said this, the sex isn’t sexy (aside from some really hot kissing at one point!), so it obviously wasn’t meant to titillate.
If anything, I think that ‘Klip’ wanted to explore growing up from a modern perspective, post-Information Age. In a day and age when society is awash in sex, where kids are inundated with pornography, there are likely going to be social repercussions. I think that ‘Klip’ explores this relatively well, without shying away from showing us the darker side of the equation. In many ways, it feels hopelessly real.
Date of viewing: June 23, 2013