A Film a Week - Slovenia, Australia and Tomorrow the World / Slovenija, Avstralija in jutri ves svet

Marko Naberšnik has made his filmmaking career going against the mainstream in Slovenian cinema – emulating the style of the past times and Yugoslav cinema of the so-called Czech school period. His debut Rooster’s Breakfast was a great example of it, penned by Naberšnik and novelist Feri Lainščak, the film was not only worthy of, let us say, early Paskaljević, but it also generated some cult following and brought the centralized, Ljubljana-based cinema to the easternmost parts of the country. His second effort, Shanghai Gypsy, also penned by Lainščak, tried to blend Naberšnik’s Yugoslav style with American-like biopics, it was kinda epic in scope, lyrical in moments, with some half-hearted attempt in channelling early Kusturica feeling, but it was overlong and not as good as the previous one. Then Naberšnik surprised many by doing a WWI chamber drama The Woods are Still Green in German language and in co-production with Austria, dealing with the lesser-known aspect of the war, The Alpine Front, with the special attention paid to the language and period details.

For his latest film, Slovenia, Australia and Tomorrow the World, Naberšnik says it is his most personal. The story is located in his hometown, Maribor that took a serious blow during the transition when most of the industry collapsed, which could seem also a bit photogenic, the actors are local and the level of the local slang details is amazing. However, the story is more universal: it follows a simple worker’s dream of business success wheeling and dealing in a multilevel company in his own free time, only to find himself crossed in-between his newfound “success” and his crumbling family life.

The whole bullshit of multilevel marketing can be seen plainly: all those overpriced vacuum cleaners, cosmetics and whatnot sold more as a concept like health than as a regular product, all those middle-aged, balding losers who think they can make money and feel younger through cheating, all those reptilian-looking “bosses” and motivational speakers telling that everything is possible if we really, really want it. The whole charade is not a particularly Slovenian thing, or even Eastern European thing (let us just note that half a century in communism produces a generation of people naive enough to take a fake shortcut like that). It is the way it is in post-modern, post-truth, narrative-selling dog-eat-dog world.

Naberšnik was definitely onto something and it is a pity that Slovenia, Australia and Tomorrow the World is not a better film, or at least a better done one. The film is too long and is essentially a piece of television that has somehow found its way into the movie theatres. Production values are on the same level, and combined with Naberšnik’s uninspired shot-reverse shot idea of directing, dialogue written to sound authentic but still sounds wooden, properly accented though, the whole feeling is drab. The story goes nowhere fast, it stays on the superficial level, never diving into psychology, social aspects or economics of the whole thing and basically checking a lot of family-friendly clichés.

The only time Slovenia, Australia and Tomorrow the World looks alive is when veteran stage actor and Naberšnik regular Vlado Novak appears is a few scenes, making them his own one-man show. The rest of the ensemble does not have the strength to follow him and Naberšnik simply does not know how to inspire them. Or he just needs a better project, another pair of eyes on the script, a braver cinematographer, more seasoned actors. Because this is embarrassingly bland.

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