DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
SLOVENIAN GIRL (A CALL GIRL) (SLOVENKA) (director/writer: Damjan Kozole; screenwriters: Matevz Luzar/Ognjen Svilicic; cinematographer: Ales Belak; editors: Jurij Moskon/Andrija Zafranovic; music: Silence; cast: Nina Ivanisin (Aleksandra/Sasha), Peter Musevski (Edo), Primoz Pirnat (Zdravko), Marusa Kink (Vesna/Aleksandra's student Friend), Maja Sever (Aleksandra's Mother), Uros Furst (Gregor), Dejan Spasic (Mile), Aljosa Kovacic (Peter), Andrej Murenc (Miha), Ales Valic (Professor Mrak), Marjuta Slamic (Bank Clerk); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Danijel Hocevar; Film Movement; 2009-Slovenia/Croatia/Germany-in Slovenian with English subtitles)

 
"Though the story line didn't hold my attention, Ivanisin's forceful and expressive performance did."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Its American title is A Call Girl. Its Eastern European title Slovenian Girl is derived from the alias the call girl Sasha (Nina Ivanisin) uses when publishing sex ads in the local newspaper. Filmmaker Damjan Kozole's ("Remington"/"Spare Parts") arthouse drama concerns taking the wrong path to find a better life and then after realizing one's mistake trying to get back on the right track before it's too late (whereas a greenhorn loner prostitute/college coed is used as a metaphor for a poor country once run by Communists to find its own moral compass when given independence).

Warning: spoilers in the next three paragraphs.

Sasha is a manipulative self-absorbed 23-year-old college student from Krsko, a dull small town in Slovenia, a train ride away from the capital city of Ljubljana, where she goes to school during the day but at night secretly works as a prostitute so she can drive a new Fiat, live in a luxury apartment and live a good life with material comforts from her unreported illegal income. For some reason, never made clear, the college boys never hit on her. But the ambitious student has one college girlfriend, Vesta (Marusa Kink), the nicest character in the film, who is kept in the dark about Sasha's nighttime activities though she's smart enough to suspect that something's not right about how a poor college student can afford such luxuries.

Things go wrong when Sasha's client, a visiting important German politician in the European Parliament, has a heart attack when she shows up for their sex appointment in his hotel room after taking a few tablets of Viagra. Since Sasha called the ambulance for help without leaving a name, the police want to question the prostitute who goes by the name of Slovenian Girl. Soon other problems arise, as Sasha's creepy vengeful lover from her hometown, Gregor (Uros Furst), follows her to the capital and tells her he's divorcing his pregnant wife to be with her. Her cold response is for him to get lost. She also talks her rigid professor (Ales Valic) into giving her a makeup exam when she lies and tells him she's recovering from a tumor operation. A bigger problem arises when two violent pimps (Aljosa Kovacic & Dejan Spasic) dangle her from the roof and threaten to let her drop unless she works for them. When taken for a ride by them, Sasha escapes and is forced to swallow her pride and call Gregor for help. Too scared to stay alone in the big city, she visits her depressed divorced has-been ex-rocker father (Peter Musevski) in Krsko, who is trying to start up his old band again. But, even though she likes dad about as much as she can like anyone, she soon splits for the big city because she's too ashamed to tell her dad the truth and too bored in the small town to remain.

Sasha tries working as a call girl again under a different alias and is wary that the pimps are after her. Sasha's call girl work is curtailed because of the dangers and she can't meet the payments on a loan she took out from the bank. The officious mealy-mouth bank officer (Marjuta Slamic) tells her she'll lose the apartment she mortgaged for the loan. By this time, after all her setbacks, Sasha is disillusioned and filled with self-pity, and feels she has no choice but to return to her hometown and hope she can find a so-called "normal life."

The bleak slice of life political story about survival at any cost interested me less than in checking out life in Slovenia, because it's a part of the world I rarely see on film. Though the story line didn't hold my attention, Ivanisin's forceful and expressive performance did. The camera is her best friend and makes her plain looks glow with a suffering that brings out her pained beauty and her desperation to succeed. Even though Sasha is a materialistic, greedy, shallow and selfish person, she somehow manages to get some sympathy because she's so vulnerable and has the potential to live a creative life if she can find her way back to reality and the truth. What's frightening about Sasha's college girl experiment in prostitution, is how she can so easily sell her body, lie to either strangers or those close to her, and still remain so apathetic about getting paid for sex and leading a double-life. I assume the filmmaker meant to use Sasha as a symbol of the ethos of life in post-Communist Eastern Europe, and in that sense we're left with a well-thought out cautionary history lesson and a film that is meant to be more than a coming-of-age tale.

REVIEWED ON 8/24/2010       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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