The Box

This entry is part 15 of 30 in the series Raindance 2011

Released: 2011
Director: Andrijana Stojkovic

Starring: Ivan Djordjevic, Marko Janketic, Slobodan Negic


Quirky and unique Serbian film

The war in the early 1990s and the break-up of the former Yugoslavia casts a long shadow over the culture of the Balkans.  It’s no surprise that film-makers in the region are creating work which reflect the time and consequences of the conflict.  I doubt that many will be as unique, engaging or quirky as Andrijana Stojkovic’s debut feature The Box which held its International Premiere at Raindance.

Whenever I see the word “quirky” I get a shiver of fear.  Quirky should mean fun, original, a little bit out of the ordinary and most of all, interesting.  Instead it’s normally used by terribly dull and cliched people to try to convince the rest of us that they are fun and oh-so-wacky when they clearly aren’t.  Thankfully The Box is quirky in the true sense of the word.  It defies convention and can’t easily be pigeon-holed into any one genre.

It is 1992 – sanctions have been imposed, a no-fly zone established, embassies are closing and diplomats are leaving Belgrade in their droves.  Three young men witness the exodus as they work for a removal company packing furniture in residences across the city.  Despite the impending war the three are completely preoccupied with their own issues.  Cvrie dreams of becoming a rock star, Vladan is trying to get to Holland to further his education and Bili only cares about the fortunes of his favourite football team.

First time director Andrijana Stojkovic presents us with a stark black and white picture of life in Serbia and a portrait of people trying to find their own place in life – the box they fit into.  Interspersed with the main narrative action are straight to camera monologues by the lead characters and others affected by the move such as diplomats and their families.

In the hands of a lesser writer and director this could have been an absolute car crash but Stojkovic handles the changing styles well and the film is fresh and inventive.  The interjections of a number of different voices emphasises the turmoil that Yugoslavia is facing, connecting all of the characters and their search for their own place in the world.

The acting by the three young leads is superb.  Particularly touching was Slobodan Negic as the ambitious and thoughtful Vladan.  The supporting cast wasn’t that great and it didn’t surprise me to learn from the director that most were friends rather than professional actors.  Having said that, they do their job well enough and don’t detract from the central performances.

The script is sharp – mostly funny but also sad and moving when it needs to be.  While the war is ever-present and is driving the action, it does not dominate.  Instead the individual stories are given the opportunity to develop.

This is an ambitious beginning by a talented new writer and director.  It’s inventive and unusual without being annoying.  Balkan Cinema may be coming out of the shadows of unrest but on the evidence of The Box there is clearly a bright future ahead.

The Balkan strand has been funded by ‘Southeast Europe: People and Culture’ courtesy of the European Commission DG for Enlargement.

Previous and next posts in this series:<< By Day and By Night (De Dia y De Noche)Victims >>
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  1. An excellent review for a film that deserves your support. As you say, the lead actors are strong, with Marko Janketić as Billy being a stand-out for me. His improvised piece to camera was captivating.

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