The Frog / Žaba

previously published on Cineuropa
Based on a record-breaking theatre play that has been on stage for almost a decade now, The Frog has some serious shoes to fill in domestically and on the regional level. Directed by Elmir Jukić who has done most of his work on television and written by him and Pjer Žalica (Fuse) based on Dubravko Mihanović’s theatre piece, The Frog strives to be as faithful to the riginal play as possible so it keeps all of its actors. After the world premiere at Sarajevo Film Festival, it hits the Croatian audience at Zagreb Film Festival (out of competition) where the script was developed years earlier through My First Screenplay workshop.

Zeko (Emir Hadžihafizbegović in the second great role this year after Men Don’t Cry) is a barber and a war veteran suffering from PTSD whose family has left him because of his violent outbursts. He wants to start the new chapter of his life and he thinks that the way to do it is to try to help the only two people he cares about, his brother Braco (Aleksandar Seksan known for Our Everyday Life) and their friend Švabo (Bosnian for Kraut) played by Mirsad Tuka. They both have serious problems, Braco is a gambler and a drunk angry about the current state of things in the country while reminiscencing of the “golden”, pre-war times, while cab-driving Švabo, who spent the war time abroad (hence the nickname) and does not get all the post-war mojo very well, cheats his wife with a much younger lover. What would be a better day to fix their lives and make them start over again than the Muslim holiday of Eid, so they meet in Zeko’s barber shop for a cup of coffee, some cookies and talk, but the things get out of control quite quickly, fights ensue and the threat of violence is constantly in the air.

The title animal occurs in conversations twice during the film, never in its literal form. At the very beginning, it is an old car, Citroen DS, nicknamed the frog in parts of Yugoslavia, once owned by Zeko’s and Braco’s father, driven by two of them for their youthful adventures. The other frog is the character of Haruki Murakami’s story Super-Frog saves Tokyo from the after the quake [the title is being written that way] collection. For some reason, Zeko finds the part of the story published in newspaper his new guiding light and life’s philosophy urging people around him to change, while being unable to change himself. The arrival of the book salesman (Moamer Kasumović) in the crucial moment for Zeko will explain the mystery of the latter frog and offer a key for the interpretation of the film and the frog as the constant search for the meaning in life, working both in local and universal context.

Theatrical background of the source material is notable from the setting of one single space for the most of the time, sometimes long takes from hand-held camera and few significant characters. Jukić also breaks the frame, at times taking the film outside the shop, introducing flashbacks from Zeko’s memories and writing new cameo-esque characters into the script, some of them were played by legendary actors like Boro Stjepanović and Vlasta Velisavljević. However, the acting style of the ensemble reprising their roles from the play is different, cinematic and more realistic, making The Frog far more than merely a piece of filmed theatre.

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