As seen through the eyes of Jasna (Isidora Simijonovic), the life of a Serbian teenager is not much different from anywhere else. She is frustrated by nearly everything her mother asks her to do, especially in regards to helping her father, who has been struck down by illness. She works out her emotions by hitting clubs with her girlfriends, where she courts a thuggish boy named Djole (Vukasin Jasnic). Most of her interactions are filtered through the video camera on her mobile phone, which she uses to document her turbulent lifestyle. Although each new development in her life presents another form of responsibility for Jasna to take on, she continually throws caution to the wind, rushing forward with the wild abandon that epitomizes reckless youth.
Given the dramatic disparity with which films depict the life of teenage girls vs. teenage boys, it feels almost unfair to say that Clip doesn't really have anything new to bring to the table, but a played-out genre is a played-out genre, and the "dark" coming-of age film is certainly that. Director Maja Milos approaches the film with a wild style that accentuates the banality of some of these moments, particularly the graphic sexual interactions between Jasna and Djole, but the only real innovation in Clip comes from what doesn't occur rather than anything that does.
Based on the DVD packaging, the film's Serbian roots are offered as a potentially unique angle for the story, but other than the grungy, dated surroundings of the characters as they hook up and hang out, there are only a few scenes in the movie that feel as if they stem from Serbian culture. At one point, the boys break into the school at night and throw the desks out the window, which is an interesting act of rebellion. The school itself feels unsupervised and voluntary, and access to clubs and drugs is never an issue. Still, none of this really changes the core story -- the only seriously unexpected element is Djole's connection to Jasna, which is introduced midway through the film and then never mentioned again. It seems like a big deal, but other than being mentioned, it never has an impact, so maybe I misunderstood the dialogue (although I doubt it).
In terms of Milos' direction, the most prominent contribution is the raw, uncensored sex, created using a number of techniques, including prosthetics, body doubles, and other bits of manipulation and editing. Of course, all the graphic sex, violence, or language in the world doesn't mean anything unless it has a point, and Milos doesn't really have anything to say about the onslaught of close encounters in her movie other than "it happens," which is no great revelation, or that "it can be banal," which is maybe even less of a revelation. For awhile, it seems as if the sex might open an interesting door on Djole's side of the relationship, but Milos doesn't go there, focusing more on his emotionless, mercenary attitude toward Jasna.
The two aspects of Clip that do hold weight are Simijonovic's performance and the film's relatively open ending. Although it's not exactly a tour-de-force performance, Simijonovic is able to hint at an emotional complexity to her experiences that Milos doesn't offer in her screenplay. Simijonovic conveys the decency at the heart of Jasna even when she's at her most selfish and cruel, which is no small feat. I also greatly appreciate that Milos is solely interested in observation rather than moralizing -- the point of Clip is not to punish Jasna for her wild behavior. Sadly, Milos' strategy for doing that is to not have much of an opinion or point at all, which places Clip right in the middle of the teen movie spectrum.
I'm not sure why Clip comes with a reversible cover featuring the theatrical poster art on one side. The logical assumption would probably be that the poster was too "explicit" and that the distributor decided to play it safe, but both could easily be displayed on a store shelf (in fact, the one pictured is probably the more "racy" of the two). I have no preference (the theatrical art looks just fine), but buyers may appreciate this little bonus. Inside the transparent Amaray case, there is also a 12-page booklet featuring an essay by Travis Crawford, and an interview with Simijonovic.
The Video and Audio
Clip is a foreign independent production, and so extreme limitations are to be expected. Contrast is the biggest issue for this anamorphic widescreen presentation, framed at 2.10:1 (according to the package). Scenes inside Jasna's dingy, underlit home are flat and dimensionless, with unnaturally gray shadows covering the walls with constant banding and faint artifacting. Even in relative close-ups, detail is not particularly impressive, with the image appearing very soft. Then again, considering the fact that the film is structured around Jasna's desire to record everything on her phone's camera, maybe a harsh, cheap video presentation is all part of the aesthetic. Dolby Digital 5.1 is equally adequate, picking up the hollow acoustics of the film's settings and accurately rendering what is largely a quiet, dialogue-driven movie. Thumping music in clubs or homes isn't exactly rich and vibrant, but has an authentic feel, but that's about as much effort as the track is ever required to provide. English subtitles and a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix are also included.
The one extra is an interview (22:46) with director / writer Maja Milos, who talks about the inspiration for writing and directing Clip, the challenges of telling such an extreme story using young actors, Clip being banned in Russia, research, reception of Clip in Serbia, the cultural aspects of the movie, and the sexual politics of directing. It's a little dry, but it's nice that Artsploitation took the effort to include at least one substantial piece.
An original theatrical trailer for Clip is included in the special features. There are also trailers for four other Artsploitation releases: Vanishing Waves, Hemel, Hard Romanticker, and Bullet Collector.
Clip is not a poorly made or stupid film, it's just a film that only stands out through surface elements like explicit sex and its foreign setting. Still, anyone dead set on seeing it -- preferably via rental -- will at least have Simijonovic's performance to look forward to.
Please check out my other DVDTalk DVD, Blu-Ray and theatrical reviews and/or follow me on Twitter.