Panama: world wide web of lies
by Bénédicte Prot
- CANNES 2015: Pavle Vuckovic paints the portrait of a generation whose superficiality and depravity are fuelled by their lives being completely taken over by the Internet
Four years ago we were left feeling highly disturbed by Clip [+see also:
interview: Maja Milos
film profile], by Maja Milos, in which very young girls posted pornographic clips of themselves on the Internet. Panama [+see also:
film profile] by Pavle Vuckovic, which is a special screening at the 68th Cannes Film Festival, could be described as following the same vein as Serbian cinema, or at least as a nod to the former film, not so much because it contains more steamy sex scenes, but because it centres around a youth without ideals posting videos that don't do much for human dignity on social networks. It's summer, the girls are easy and their fluorescent underwear visible under their coquettish clothes. It is in this climate of accepted depravity, heightened by equally vulgar photography (which is deliberate, as suggested by certain shots in the second half of the film), that Jovan (Slaven Doslo) and his friend Milan keep a detailed log of their sexual adventures.
Milan is already far ahead when Jovan meets Maja (Jovana Stojiljkovic), who is more inexperienced than the other girls, although she doesn't put up any resistance to his minimalist "seduction technique" either, which consists of him letting her know that he's not looking for anything serious and then asking her two mundane questions she doesn't particularly feel like answering. They start seeing each other, not that that stops Jovan from seeing other people. His calm indifference towards these girls and the satisfaction an easy conquest brings him are, however, put at risk by the unspoken words of Maja, who maintains her air of mystery and seems to be nothing like the image given of her by social networks. Initially irritated, then downright worried by the double life he assumes Maja is leading, tracing her movements and obsessively playing and replaying the videos posted on her profile, Jovan takes on the role of a boyfriend, even going so far as to bring her breakfast in bed, highlighting that he really is "the perfect househusband".
Maja's strategy, if it really is that, turns out to be a clever one, as Jovan ends up seeing only her, even forgetting about his smartphone for a moment, the time it takes for a romantic weekend. It is not clear whether or not Maja intentionally keeps up this air of mystery, which causes Jovan to fall in love with and develop real feelings for her, igniting an extreme and cumpulsive jealousy inside him. Nor is it certain that Maja's silence is to blame. What is clear, is that this "double" life (or this restricted life, this real life, which is no more or less secret than anyone else's private life), which Vuckovic refuses to give us any information about, is something that Jovan is incapable of comprehending, used as he is to learning everything about a person through what they post about themselves on the Internet.
To highlight Jovan's pathological distress, Vuckovic chooses to keep the audience just as much in the dark as he is about Maja, who he gives the exotic and slightly artificial name of "Panama". Thus the minor weaknesses of this debut feature film (its garish appearance and the total state of frustration it induces in the audience) coincide precisely with the intentions of the filmmaker, making this a well-directed and promising piece.
(Translated from French)
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