Saturday, July 18, 2009


Karaula; Grotesque, Serbia/ Croatia/ BiH/ Montenegro/ Macedonia/ Slovenia/ Hungary/ UK/ Austria, 2006; D: Rajko Grlić, S: Toni Gojanović, Sergej Trifunović, Emir Hadžihafizbegović, Verica Nedeska, Bogdan Diklić

Ohrid lake, Yugoslavian-Albanian border, '87. A small military JNA outpost is filled with unsatisfied and bored soldiers. Siniša, a medicine student from Split serving the army, is summoned by Lieutenant Pašić who has syphilis. Since it will take at least 3 weeks to cure him with penicillin, Pašić wants to keep everything a secret and thus orders the soldiers to stay in the outpost for additional 3 weeks, under the fake excuse that the Albanian soldiers are re-grouping. Siniša starts an affair with Pašić's wife Mirjana. In order to get away from the outpost, soldier Ljuba volunteers to walk to Tito's grave in Belgrade. But when the reports show up, he claims Pašić forced him to do that. Ljuba kills Pašić, while due to a misunderstanding the soldiers shoot the army vehicle with Mirjana in it.

The first joint film co-production by all the former Yugoslavian republics since its breakup, "Karaula" is a solid, but unfortunately typically backward film that mirrors only the bad things from those areas, juggling with heavy humor, heavy melodrama and in the end heavy messages. The locations around the Ohrid lake are fantastic and the opening of the story is quite amusing, especially when the main tangle is built around it - in it, the young medicine student Siniša is summoned to the office of Lieutenant Pašić, who closes all the windows and then unzips his pants. Siniša isn't at first sure where this is going, until he sees that Lieutenant's penis has syphilis and is thus ordered to cure him. The notion that a high ranking military officer is willing to even start a war with another country (here Albania) as a false flag in order to divert the attention of the soldiers from his real personal problems (syphilis) is haunting and terrifying, which even gets a deeper dimension when the director Rajko Grlic places some TV inserts of Slobodan Milošević. However, even though the tangle works the first 20 minutes, it doesn't work the last 80. Patchwork comes to mind when one has to describe "Karaula", since it is too chaotic and forces its political messages of the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia. Quite simply, its charmingly crude at the start, but with time it just becomes only crude.


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