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Supermarket

Experimental Montenegrin comedy about man living in supermarket is packed with offbeat and absurdist tone - live from the Rebels With a Cause Competition of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

QUICK AND DIRTY: LIVE FROM TALLINN

The 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival has multiple competitions for filmmakers to enter their projects into, and every single category is packed to the rafters with a diverse number of films. There’s a plethora of fictional films leading the way in this year’s Rebel with a Cause competition, a category for the more experimental films from around the world that carry a more rebellious message. With such a stacked list of European and International premieres preparing to take the top prize, how does one stand out from the rest? How about Supermarket then, from Montenegrin filmmaker Nemanja Bečanović? An experimental comedy with psychological tendencies dancing all the way through it, featuring an introverted man who lives in his local supermarket and begins his unusual routines when all the doors are closed. Imagine all the interesting things you could get up to in a supermarket on your own? Well, there’s no need to imagine anymore because this man right here is living it, and his intricate regime shows he’s been doing it for some time.

Think about it like this: the supermarket finally closes its doors after another hectic day of crazy shoppers flooding the aisles with chaos. But then, the corridors become quiet; everything is left untouched, until a man appears from the shelves, turns on the lights, and makes this shopping kingdom his own. Sampling everything and anything and placing it perfectly back where it belongs as to not leave evidence (never has a man with a pocketknife ever been as delicate as him), before going through his nightly ritual of routine and habit – there’s something oddly unsettling about watching a man moisturize his whole body in such a specific way, it’s a weird nod of things to come.

Robert (Bojan Žirović) is the man leading this idyllic life of supermarket solitude and he surely thinks that the life he has forged for himself will never be interrupted. But what happens when he suspects someone is watching him? Something somewhere seems to be following his every cushioned footstep; taunting him down every aisle ready to pounce. It’s not all as sinister as it seems though because Robert is introduced to another person, a man named… Robert (Branimir Popović) befriends the introverted original Robert, which results in the beginning of a very endearing little friendship between these two men. But does Robert number two have other plans? Is he everything that he seems?

From very early on, the film offers a great examination of the character, and you get a really good sense of the man’s psyche. Clearly, something has previously gone wrong in Robert’s life, for him to be where he is. His mannerisms, the fact he sets the table for two people – him and his mannequin girlfriend – and the overexaggerated OCD that rules the life of this deeply damaged man. The issue is that we never really get to the bottom of Robert’s issues, there are some hints here and there, but the overriding reasons for his beahviour are never truly revealed. Bojan Žirović is great though, and there are several scenes throughout the film that really allow the man to tap into his wide array of creepy acting talent. Both he and Branimir Popović share some humorously eerie but very alluring scenes together, and it can be tough to do, being the only two characters in the film and all.

However, it doesn’t take long before the film’s crowning jewel appears before us all, and that’s the incredibly atmospheric and enticing score that dances over the film like a gothic ballerina. It is a cultured and well-designed musical ensemble that fills every scene in which it’s being used with so much tension and spirit. High-pitched sounds layer the first third of the film and are what set the tone, but gorgeous synth wave-type music comes crashing in during a sequence involving Robert’s entertaining mime-like performance, which was a particular highlight from the film. This scene specifically is a perfect combination of acting, music, atmosphere, and weirdness, which just epitomizes what the film is all about.

What lets it down massively though is how confusing it can feel, with too much being left up in the air, before the film’s climax becomes hugely underwhelming and unresolved. There were so many narrative curveballs thrown in that could have been crucial to the story, but they were then just ignored for the rest of the film. The disconnect is too much to ignore, the lack of clarity feels as though you’ve been cheated out of something promising, and even though the film is enjoyable for the most part, it’s these key factors that ultimately let it down.

It’s clear as day that the budget for this film was on the low side, with just the two cast members, a simple concept, and an equally basic set design, but it really does go above and beyond expectations even with this ailment. This psychological comedy is better defined as being an offbeat and absurdist comedy rather than one with a laden of jokes, and even with the huge narrative maze that it forces you to walk through, it still allows itself to become a fairly well-balanced, experimental, and entertaining little film.

Supermarket just premiered in the Rebels With a Cause Competition of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.


By John McDonald - 16-11-2023

Failing from the seaside town of Southport but now living in Liverpool, John McDonald has had a passion for cinema since he was a small child. The westerns of John Wayne were his gateway into the cine...

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