Sarajevo Review: Nightlife (Damjan Kozole)

Wrong decisions, mistakes and dark sides are just a few of the things that can ruin a person’s reputation, social life and professional career forever. This is especially true for those constantly exposed to the watchful eye of the media.

A high-profile lawyer, Milan Potokar, is found dying on the side of a road with dog bite marks all over his body and a strap-on dildo next to him. Inspired by a highly publicised affair from a couple of years ago, Nightlife uses the shocking premise as a mere starting point for what is about to unfold. Through its tense 85 minutes we follow the lawyer’s wife as she navigates through the immediate aftermath of the confusing phone call informing her of the incident. She arrives at the hospital demanding to know what happened and the nurse answers, “The police will tell you that.” She’s brought to the police station and the investigator starts the conversation by asking about her sex life. Nobody wants to tell her anything, but every look she gets speaks louder than words. It’s terrifying to see how quickly her mind races to matters besides her husband’s battle for life. She knows what is at stake here. She realises this could not only be the end of her husband’s career but also of their normal lives in a society where everyone is exposed to scrutiny; the more absurd the accusations, the better. Desperation sets in as she resorts to evidence theft and bribery. The less she speaks, the higher the tension and the more burning the thought of whether Mr. Potokar would even want to survive, knowing what comes next.

Taking place over a single night, Nightlife explores the weight of consequences with tense, claustrophobic mise-en-scene and sparse dialogue, often so banal it borders on absurd humor. The heart of the film is Pia Zemljič’s tour-de-force performance as Mrs. Potokar, a desperate woman who is never sympathetic yet never quite antagonistic. Director Damjan Kozole masterfully chooses an intense yet detached perspective on the events. It is hard to watch but even harder to look away. It is a film that lingers in the mind as it offers absolutely no conclusion. It is merely a set-up for the storm about to strike and it’s clear that what happens next is going to be hell.