Vegetarian Cannibal: Simple, direct and effective
by Vladan Petković
24/08/2012 - Vegetarian Cannibal, Croatian director Branko Schmidt's second adaptation of a novel by Ivo Balenović, after the very popular Metastases, again tackles problems of society. The film won five Golden Arenas at the Pula Film Festival, including best director and best actor.
Dr Danko Babić (Rene Bitorajac) is a successful gynecologist in his mid-30s. Although clearly an expert in his field, he is an unscrupulously ambitious and utterly despicable person. Babić's best friend is chief police inspector Ilija (Leon Lučev), with whom he takes part in sport-betting scams, and who leads him to 'controversial businessman' Jedinko (Emir Hadžihafizbegović). Jedinko deals in hard drugs and high-end prostitution (naturally, with police support), and needs a gynecologist to take care of his 'employees', meaning doing illegal abortions for the pros. It all represents government, organized crime and corruption working hand-in-hand, typical of Croatian society.
Babić has no problem with this as long as it brings in money. Just as he has no problem with forging test results (which as a result includes a woman almost bleeding to death) in order to remove the current head of gynecology department and make room for himself; or carrying out abortions past the tenth week of pregnancy.
There are no 'positive' characters in the film - actually, Babić is the only real character, the others are just there to help him or try to obstruct him, including his co-workers whose hypocrisy, chauvinism and sexism don't make them much better than him.
This is a very visceral film, with frequent use of hand-held camera and jump-cuts, with gory shots of dog-fights and bloody remnants of an abortion contrasting the sterile hospital whiteness. This is similar to the main character: he is a vegetarian who works out regularly and has a penchant for cognac, cocaine and morphine.
The film is very fast-paced, with little space between cause and effect shown on screen. This makes it seem quite simple and superficial, but is also the reason that it is so direct and effective.
Vegetarian Cannibal was produced by Telefilm and still has no international sales agent attached.