Monday, April 15, 2013

White Lions

Beli lavovi; tragicomedy, Serbia, 2011; D: Lazar Ristovski, S: Lazar Ristovski, Gordan Kičić, Hristina Popović, Vuk Kostić, Zorica Jovanović, Mira Banjac, Nikola Simić, Monika Kiš

The financial crisis has no end, and among the people affected is the socialist Dile, a union leader for workers in a closed factory. His son Gruje is a director who cannot find a job for 10 years and has to do humiliating work as a stripper, while his girlfriend Bela is equally unsuccessful in finding work as an opera singer. They are hapless: Dile finds the grand prize of 1 million euros on a cap, but it is taken by robbers. When Dile has an idea for an organization where people would dress into white lions and robb the kids of the mobsters, they get caught and beaten. On Gruje and Bela's wedding, Dile wovs to start a socialist revolution for a better world.

"White Lions" is a much better film than some would admit, a surprisingly pessimistic and depressive social commentary ridding on the wave of the 2009 financial crisis and thematically in the company of "Inside Job", "Capitalism: A Love Story", "Debtocracy" and others. More so, the story about the hero whose family - and entire country - struggle to survive in a system where all the money has been sucked out from public, seems like a more universal example of social drama movies in cinema, from Chaplin's "The Kid", Ritt's "Norma Rae", through Ford's "The Grapes of Wrath" up to Gleyzer's "The Traitors" and others. This is already evident in the sharp, cynical and concise opening dialogue between Lazar Ristovski and his interrogator: "I live like a dog, but you complain when I bark... Why should we pay the price? We haven't ordered this kind of life... If it weren't for justice, we would all be equal". Some slogans of protestors are also quite fresh and original: for instance, one board says: "Since we already sold our brains, we might as well sell our factories, too", while the other is even better and says: "We don't have money for a funeral. That is keeping us alive". "White Lions" are unfortunately clumsy and primitive at times, whereas the episodic story, in form of vignettes, does not seem to have a clear structure, yet director Ristovski manages to find a fine balance between drama and comedy, even during some strange solutions. The production values are also on a higher level, whereas even though the critics lamented about how the hero is too passive, even that can be seen as a small symbolic message aimed towards the passivity of the people around the world during the abrogation of their rights in the financial crisis.


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