Sunday, April 21, 2013

Clip – Maja Miloš

Clip (Klip) (Maja Miloš – Serbia) 100 minutes

Any parents of teenagers who might have been put on edge by Spring Breakers will be apoplectic upon watching Clip, Maja Miloš’s debut feature about hyper-sexed, drug-taking, hard-partying Serbian adolescents. It’s a film that doesn’t leave much to the imagination, what with real sex scenes (though none involving minors, a title card at the end of the film assures us); it’s raw, rough and a very intelligent first film.

People have already compared it to Larry Clark’s kids, but Clip comes across as far more natural and less the fantasies of an older man envious at youth being more or less wasted on the young. Like Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, it is told from the perspective of a young working-class girl – Jasna (Isidora Simijonovic), a pretty but self-obsessed 17-year-old, who lives with her family on a gloomy housing estate in a Belgrade suburb. Her mother has her hands full caring for Jasna’s father, who is wheezing his way to an early grave, but Jasna is largely oblivious, more interested in going out and getting trashed with her friends and getting down and dirty with her boyfriend Đole, whose interest in her appears not to extend beyond the carnal. Jasna’s excuse for not involving herself more with her family’s troubles is she has to revise but we see her doing very little of that.

In the opening scene, we see Jasna being filmed in a creepily sexual way by a man on a mobile phone. It turns out it’s her own phone and she is a wilful participant – she hadn’t until then realised that the phone could record video – it sets the tone for the rest of the film, which she spends recording her every waking moment, and that of those around her. She films without any real discrimination as to her subjects, it is constant rolling coverage, and it means her filming appears not cute and inquisitive like the video diaries of many young people but menacing and intrusive. There is also a sense that Jasna and her friends have already seen more than enough reality and they want everything to be mediated through technology. Jasna and Đole film their sexual acts with gleeful abandon and he in particular is more interested in what he sees on the small screen of a mobile phone – at one point pushing Jasna away when she tries to fellate him, preferring instead to masturbate to a previously recorded film of her pleasuring herself.

The lives of the kids are given completely to hedonism – it is all parties, boozing, lines of cheap coke, salacious selfies. They take their pointers from porn films and trashy Euro pop booty videos. There is no concept of sex as rite of passage here – it is very much been there, done that. These are the sort of teenagers you don’t really have to tell ‘it gets better’ but rather, ‘I’m afraid it’s all downhill from here’. And yet, the film and its young characters are not all that unlikeable. This is down to the sprightly, natural performances of the young cast and also Miloš’s brilliantly assured direction. Though a decade or so older than the group she portrays, there is a clear empathy in her handling of the milieu. She refrains from being judgemental, even when the film veers into dark territory.

The film’s title and main conceit point to a punch-line you continually expect to be delivered. One does arrive but it is something else entirely. There are many that will be scandalised by the ending that Miloš chooses but she is not in the business of moralising or stepping in between her characters. The film, for all the youthful exuberance of its cast and its sympathetic performances, is a bleak one at heart and it is probably all the bleaker for being so tolerable for so much of its running time. Though maybe not a film for teenagers (not that that will stop many from watching it), Clip is definitely one of the best yet made about teenage life.


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