The Trap [Klopka]
by Del Harvey
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The press notes for this film call it a modern-day film noir. That label could not be more appropriate for this heart-breaking tragedy of errors.
Young Nemanja (Marko Durović) has to be taken to the hospital one night by his mother, Marija (Nataša Ninković), and father Mladen (Nebojša Glogovac). The doctor tells them he’s having seizures but there is a cure. It is a surgical procedure that must be done in Berlin and it will cost them 26,000 Euros (roughly $34,000 as I write this review). Marija and Mladen are dumbstruck and beside themselves. The cannot imagine anyone they know having this kind of money, or even being able to come up with it themselves. Mladen’s a manager at a construction site and his owners are trying to sell the company out from under him. Marija’s a public school teacher. Their friends and family offer to sell cars, hock cheap jewelry, but none of their ideas will net more than €5000. So Marija puts an ad in the paper, against Mladen’s wishes. She thinks he’s embarrassed, but in truth he believes it a futile gesture, especially since they’ll be just one more near-poverty family begging for money from strangers.
Then, the unimaginable happens. The phone rings and Mladen takes the call. The man on the other end says he wants to meet the next day at a swank hotel. When Mladen arrives the man offers to pay him €30,000—more than enough for the surgical procedure and any expenses—if Mladen will kill someone. The man looks professional, acts professionally, and Mladen is left with a dilemma; kill a stranger for the life of his child, or allow his child to suffer and die. It is a nightmarish decision, and Mladen begins to look a little stressed, even at the mere suggestion of such an idea.
But he is a father who loves his child and his family. Marija is stressed to the point of losing it. They aren’t getting along and they don’t know where to turn. While they’re lying in bed the next evening, Mladen tries to share this problem with his wife; but she assumes he’s just whining about his own problems and shuts him out. Even more frustrated, he lies there while she sleeps and stares up at the ceiling.
The man calls back and, of course, Mladen agrees to do this thing. He is told where to pick up the gun and the instructions and the down payment. Once he gets these things home he really begins to act oddly, and Marija is driven further into frustration. Slowly she begins to feel she is the only one dealing with the situation. But she is unaware of just how much Mladen is trying to save his son, even though such a possibility seems completely out of their grasp.
And that is just the first third of the film. It takes many more twists and turns before it reaches it’s surprising conclusion. Along the way we witness humans stretched to their limits as they grapple with some very basic and frighteningly real choices. The actors do a fantastic job of portraying these deeply human and naturally flawed individuals. The cinematography is beautiful and austere. The directing, by Srdan Golubović, is wonderful. And the entire program is riveting. This is the kind of film we don’t see enough of coming off American screens, although I’m certain that even as I write this someone in Hollywood is thinking about the best way to adapt this story for a big Hollywood blockbuster.
Do yourself a favor; see the original before that happens. It is a fascinating noir tale of real people caught up in the twisted maze of their own lives.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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