Nightlife: Fear as a constant produced by society
by Vladan Petkovic
- KARLOVY VARY 2016: Damjan Kozole's ninth feature film lets us explore our feelings about society and its influence on us
Damjan Kozole is one of the most prolific and internationally renowned Slovenian filmmakers. His titles Spare Parts and Labour Equals Freedom were selected in competition at the Berlinale in 2003 and at Locarno in 2005, respectively. His 2009 title Slovenian Girl [+see also:
film profile], which he co-penned with Croatian writer Ognjen Sviličić, premiered at Toronto before being distributed around the globe.
For his ninth feature, Nightlife [+see also:
interview: Damjan Kozole
film profile], which had its world premiere in Karlovy Vary's competition, Kozole has once again teamed up with Sviličić, who has a knack for stories about ordinary people, whose circumstances force them to explore the darker corners of society, and of their own psyche.
High-profile lawyer Milan (Jernej Šugman, Inferno [+see also:
film profile]) is found lying in a major street in Ljubljana one night, naked, save for a bed sheet wrapped below his waist, barely conscious, and covered in dog bites. When Milan's wife, Lea (Pia Zemljič, Rooster's Breakfast), gets to the medical centre, she tries to find out what happened. A nurse lets her in to see her husband for a moment as he is being prepped for surgery. She learns about the dog bites, internal bleeding and damaged spleen, but she also spots a plastic bag holding a very unpleasantly surprising item and, unobserved, quickly packs it away in her purse.
The item in the bag is a black strap-on dildo. Lea is dumbfounded, but instinct overrides her shock, and from this moment on, as the doctors fight to save Milan's life, her only goal is to protect her husband’s reputation.
Throughout the film, we learn very little about Milan and Lea, or what happened to him. There is a police investigation, and the inspector in charge only gives us a hint of what might have transpired. This is not a film about specific people, nor is it about a particular type of incident. Instead, it serves as a telling example of how the legal system and public sphere of modern European society can turn against any individual.
This extends to our jobs, subject to countless regulations and yet so easy to lose, and to our countless channels of information and expression, under government surveillance and scrutinised by warriors for moral righteousness. In this atmosphere, our every move can lead to unpleasant, or outright dangerous, consequences.
This is why Kozole takes his time to meticulously cover every action and detail of the story, from the moment three youngsters find Milan on the street, up until the morning when Lea speaks to the surgeon for the last time. He gives us a close look into Lea's ordeal, in which fear is the only constant and detectable emotion.
Kozole has crafted a film that allows audiences to ask themselves the right questions about their own position in society and, maybe even more importantly, offers them a chance to find out what emotions it evokes in them. Although unpleasant, these are very concrete feelings that tell us so much about our surroundings, and about ourselves.