The Frog: The traumas and the consequences of the Bosnian War
by Marko Stojiljković
- The big-screen version of one of the most influential Bosnian stage plays is premiering at the Zagreb Film Festival
Based on a record-breaking stage play that has been performed for almost a decade now, The Frog [+see also:
film profile] has some serious shoes to fill both domestically and on the regional level. Directed by Elmir Jukić, who has done most of his work so far on television, and written by him and Pjer Žalica (Fuse [+see also:
film profile]), the film is based on Dubravko Mihanović’s theatre piece. The Frog strives to be as faithful to the original play as possible, and so it has kept all of its actors. After its world premiere at the Sarajevo Film Festival, it is meeting the Croatian audience at the Zagreb Film Festival (out of competition), where the script was developed years prior through the My First Script workshop.
Zeko (Emir Hadžihafizbegović, in his second great role this year, after Men Don’t Cry [+see also:
interview: Alen Drljević
film profile]) is a barber and a war veteran suffering from PTSD, whose family has left him because of his violent outbursts. He wants to start a new chapter in his life, and he thinks that the way to do so is to try to help the only two people he cares about: his brother Braco (Aleksandar Seksan, known for Our Everyday Life [+see also:
interview: Ines Tanović
film profile]) and their friend Švabo (Bosnian for “Kraut”), played by Mirsad Tuka. They both have serious problems: Braco is a gambler and a drunk, angry about the current state of things in the country while reminiscing about the “golden” pre-war age; while cab driver Švabo, who spent the wartime period abroad (hence his nickname), is cheating on his wife with a much younger lover. What better day to fix their lives and start them over again than the Muslim holiday of Eid? So they meet in Zeko’s barber shop for a cup of coffee and some cookies, and talk – but things spiral out of control quite quickly, fights ensue and the threat of violence constantly hangs in the air.
The titular animal crops up in conversations twice during the film, but never in its literal form. At the very beginning, it is an old car, a Citroën DS (nicknamed “The Frog” in parts of Yugoslavia) once owned by Zeko’s and Braco’s father, which the two of them drove as part of their youthful adventures. The other frog is a character from Haruki Murakami’s story Super-Frog Saves Tokyo from the after the quake collection. Zeko finds part of the story published in a newspaper, and for some reason it becomes his new guiding light and philosophy of life, causing him to urge the people around him to change, while he is unable to change himself. The arrival of a book salesman (Moamer Kasumović) at a crucial moment for Zeko will explain the mystery of the latter frog and offer the key to the interpretation of the film and the frog as the constant search for meaning in life, which works in both a local and a universal context.
The theatrical nature of the source material is noticeable owing to the setting of one single space for most of the time, the occasionally long takes from a hand-held camera and the small number of significant characters. Jukić also breaks free of the frame, at times taking the film outside the shop, introducing flashbacks from Zeko’s memories and writing new cameo-esque characters into the script, some of which are played by legendary actors like Boro Stjepanović and Vlasta Velisavljević. However, the acting style of the ensemble reprising their roles from the play is different, more cinematic and more realistic, making The Frog much more than merely a filmed piece of theatre.
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