How would you react if your neighbour of ‘X’ amount of years suddenly took his own life? Death of a Man in the Balkans depicts that exact situation with some humorous, albeit some uncomfortable, results. The film opens with a man moving about in his apartment while his web camera captures every moment. In the short time he is on screen, the character is becoming visibly more distressed until the screen cuts to black and the audience hears a gun go off. Upon hearing the sound of the gun, another person living in the apartment building, Aca (played by Emir Hadzihafizbegovic), enters the room and finds his neighbour dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. What unravels from that moment is a succession of all of the emotions felt by four of the dead man’s neighbours as they try to understand the shocking situation which they have been thrust into.
The film demonstrates how the act of suicide, often labelled as a “selfish act” by some members of society, produces shocking levels of selfishness from the characters who have remained with the living. The entire film, directed by Miroslav Momcilovic, is viewed by the audience via the same webcam that captured the dead man’s distressed state and eventual suicide (though the latter, as mentioned, is not visible to the audience because the screen fades to black rather than show such a horrific final moment). The characters, though intrigued by the computer itself, never seem to realise that the attached webcam is on and behave as though people do when they think no one is watching. As they wait for the ambulance and police to arrive, they help themselves to the dead man’s liquor, ponder how they are entitled to his expensive tool set and also make themselves comfortable by turning on the television and watching the football match.
The display of behaviours from all of the characters was quite realistic in that it started with, of course, shock and then moved to them “knowing” or having a “feeling” that this was how the dead man would end up. That is, despite the fact that all the characters claimed to know the dead man and to have interacted him just days before this sad event, none of them actually knew his full name and had to look it up. The characters also voiced absolute annoyance that the dead man would take his life in his apartment when such an incident would surely decrease the value of the other units in the apartment complex! Another interesting character aspect of film was the behaviour exhibited by the professionals (police, EMT etc) when they arrived on the scene. They behaved no better than the neighbours. Well, of course, until all of the characters realise that the computer has been on the whole time and has captured every moment since they entered the apartment.
Death of a Man in the Balkans, takes the common societal occurrence of suicide and explores the actual responses of the individuals who are left behind. It does not shy away from displaying the selfishness of individuals, their disbelief, their anger or their eventual disinterest as to the reasons one would take their own life. If anything, it creates more compassion for the dead man no matter what your personal thoughts on suicide may actually be.
Death of a Man in the Balkans is now playing as part of this year’s 6th annual Vancouver Serbian Filmfest, playing from the 12th – 15th March, 2013 at Collingwood Cinemas.
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