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COTTBUS 2020

Review: The Living Man

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- In his sixth feature, Oleg Novković shows what happens when you live fast and don't die young

Review: The Living Man
Nikola Ðuričko in The Living Man

World-premiering at the 30th FilmFestival Cottbus, The Living Man [+see also:
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, Oleg Novković's tale of an ageing rocker, is a melancholic story, as old hellraiser Đela (Nikola Ðuričko, recently spotted in Stranger Things) finds himself navigating pretty mundane family dramas instead of snorting ants, Ozzy Osbourne-style. Predictably, it's not much fun – his young daughter gets pregnant, his ex-junkie wife is mean, and the highlight of the day comes from his son's girlfriend, innocently sharing the fact that, according to her mum, he used to be hot back in the day. No wonder the guy flips.

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And yet people keep turning to the past here, with Đela's wife intent on finally writing a book about “their time”, for example. After all, they were younger, they were higher, and they didn't have an unplanned grandchild on the way. Novković has a good ear for dialogues, and The Living Man almost reeks of hangover, of yesterday's clothes and stale wine from a party, still standing on the table because you just never know. But holding onto what was doesn't seem to be working that well either, and while a sudden discovery about his family sends Đela sprinting out of the door, he was already halfway there anyway, just looking for a proper excuse.

And so begins the tiniest of road movies, a tad too familiar, with a middle-aged man wandering around the small universe he used to preside over, trying his best to relive some of the past glories and listen to the hits once again, even though his body doesn't really agree with the old lifestyle any more. “The closest I get to heavy drug use is when I am on the road and I take penicillin because I get the clap,” used to proudly claim the great Frank Zappa, but that doesn't work for this guy, not ready to let go of who he used to be. Although all he gets these days is just tired.

He is not exactly loyal, and not exactly nice either – least of all to his crazy family – but the leather-clad Ðuričko makes him almost endearing, regardless, and his lack of enthusiasm for anything, including sweet-talking some lady once again, is perfectly understandable. He might not be exactly old just yet, but this guy has already paid his dues, and then some. There is a mention of a friend from a band who overdosed, but staying alive is no picnic either, not when he “can't both drink and fuck”, as he informs his disappointed wife matter-of-factly. Ageing is just harder for rock stars, you know? At least they used to be hot back in the day.

The Living Man was produced by SALT (Serbia) and Ostlicht filmproduktion (Germany).

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