Slovenian Girl (Slovenka) (Damjan Kozole, 2009): Slovenia
Reviewed by Rowan-George Smith. Viewed at the Metro 4, Santa Barbara Film Festival.
In Slovenian Girl (Slovenka), Nina Ivanisin is Aleksandra a.k.a. “Slovenian Girl”, and Damjan Kozole, brilliantly directs this Slovenian film. Nina Ivanisin is an absolute gem. She carries the ninety-minute film effortlessly with such ease and confidence; her honest portrayal of Aleksandra, a 23-year-old English student who resides in Ljubliana, Slovenia, works in prostitution, “the world’s oldest profession”, and lives the life she so desires. It’s all for money.
In the film, Aleksandra confidently says, “Nobody knows what I do”…her secret life as a prostitute is going pretty well, she manages to equally balance her studies and work, until one of her clients, a German diplomat visiting Slovenia dies of a heart attack while in her company. She cautiously phones for help, takes cash from his wallet, and then bolts from his hotel room. As the police search for “Slovenian Girl” for questioning, Aleksandra continues working until two shady pimps; Mile (Dejan Spasic) and Peter (Aljosa Kovacic) locate her first. They force her to agree to work for them, by dangling her by the legs from the 11th floor balcony; this is the most intense scene of the film. It took the crew ten takes to film that scene and Nina Ivanisin did her own stunts. After this violent altercation, Aleksandra is distraught but manages to hide from the men, for the time being. She desperately phones her ex-boyfriend, Gregor (Uros Furst) for help. Ironically he comes to her aid, after he’s been pinning for her from the start of the film. When she is safe, she has sex with Gregor, and then when she is sleeping, Gregor discovers all the condoms in her possession, Aleksandra’s secret is set free. She temporarily returns home to stay with her father, Edo (Peter Musevski), who attempts to resurrect his rock band with his buddies. With a drastic loss of income, Aleksandra finds herself in a bind; she is past due on her mortgage payments and doing poorly in her English studies. As Aleksandra rekindles her relationship with her father, he suspects that she is on serious drugs or has inherited severe depression from him. Desperate for money, Aleksandra goes to see her estranged mother, and little half-brother who are in one scene in the entire film.
Ivanisin delivers a stellar performance; she’s engaging and has magnificent screen presence. Her subtle acting style is minimal and simplistic, she communicates brilliantly with her eyes that tell us so much. She plays the prostitution scenes with such ease and her demeanor is so carefree. Ivanisin’s display of relaxed alertness makes prostitution look easy to do; she emotionally cuts herself off, and Aleksandra bravely works the job, then leaves. It’s interesting to note that Aleksandra is totally prepared, she owns a few mobile phones, carries loads of condoms in her purse, and the message of practicing safe sex is imperative especially in this film. However, it’s incredible how Aleksandra functions alone as a prostitute and keeps her secret for as long as she does. She has no safety net, no protection; she has only herself, and her strong instincts. The risk taker that she is, she puts herself on the line every time she works a job. No one ever knows her whereabouts, or, with whom she’s meeting, she doesn’t confide in her best friend Vesna (Marusa Kink), until it’s too late.
Director Damjan Kozole takes viewers on a bold and fulfilling journey of Aleksandra’s story in English and Slovenian. He masterfully unfolds a story of relevant subject matter and authentically depicts Aleksandra’s pursuit of money. Prostitution can be addictive, Aleksandra’s in it for the money, and is stuck in this profession. The risks and consequences of her actions force her to deal with fear, guilt and loneliness. We all have our secrets, for Aleksandra, her secret, her truth…is now a gift.