Srdjan Dragojevic, The Wounds (Yugoslavia, 1998).
Dragojevic’s The Wounds is dedicated to post-Tito generations and, appropriately, the protagonist, Pinki, is born in 1980, the year Tito died. The film, though, deals with the post-war state of affairs in Serbia. The film portrays the gangster corruption that became such an explicit problem of the Slobodan Milosevic era. In the mid 90s Milosevic deliberately affected a state of hyper inflation to his own personal benefit and that of the gangster elite. Plunder fueled the gangster population, which had ties with the corrupt regime of the time, and the black market. The Wounds presents a picture of the effects that the decaying system had on the lives of those that grew up in such conditions. However, the film exaggerates and practically ridicules the lifestyles that the system bred, it doesn’t judge, or glorify them, which by its style creates an interesting dichotomy.
The Wounds in addition to portraying particular problems of post-war Serbian society also serves as testament to the increasing internationalization of filmmaking. The film is funded mostly with Western monies, its style is noticeably and deliberately Western and even in content it significantly quotes Western cultural motifs that serve to both highlight the Westernization of Serbia and also to exaggerate the main characters’ traits and behavior. Each of these elements is understood to be a reality as a direct effect of the fall of Communism. During Communism the state funded the arts, including film, and therefore money from the West was uncommon if not impossible. With the collapse of Communism the state no longer had the funds to support art and so the production of films began to depend on Western resources. The collapse of Communism also meant that the culture itself became more open to Western influence, in terms of financial as well as purely cultural currency. The Westernization of Serbia can be further understood as a result of the fall of Communism in that with the fall of Communism so too fell the values and beliefs that Communism had engendered the culture and society with. With the collapse of the sets of Communist values and belief systems the culture was left with a sort of void. This vacancy in the collective conscience is attempted to be substituted, in The Wounds, as one example, by the Western popular media image of masculine violence and dominance. The popular western imagery of masculinity as defined through domineering violence is exploited throughout The Wounds. The imagery has a dual effect by the reinforcement of the style by which it is represented. The film self-consciously employs a very Hollywood style which is coupled with the portrayal of the decay of Serbian society. The film portrays the youth of two teenage boys, Pinki and Svaba, as they grow up friends with a gangster, one of the very many that is alluded to throughout the film. Pinki’s father represents, to an extent, the older values of the society. Pinki though rejects everything that his parents are. In the presence of a failing and increasingly decaying society, Pinki sees the wealth and feared presence of the gangster neighbor and decides that he prefers to live life like him. Pinki and Svaba grow up being taught the gangster lifestyle by Ludi, the neighbor. Guns, drugs and the ill treatment of female characters are piece and parcel to the lifestyle. Dominance over everyone, often induced through the fear that guns create, is always a must for Pinki and Svaba. Constantly cussing and waving around their weapons the kids could remind the spectator of almost any popular Hollywood action-violence picture, centralized around the importance of the homo-erotic bond between male characters. However, in Hollywood films of the kind every effort is made on the part of the filmmaker to instill and solidify the unwavering, and convincing portrait of masculine power and “coolness.” In The Wounds Dragojevic does no such thing but instead keeps the reality of his characters conspicuously clear. No matter how macho-strong they pretend to act the truth remains that they are only kids. These two kids have the trappings and iconographies but none of the interiority or truth of the images that they try to imitate. Rather than seeming totally menacing or convincingly “cool” the two characters are absolutely ridiculous. The film reflects the penetration of American culture and the detrimental influence of the American popular media male image. The film presents these influences as contributing problems among many that the post-Tito society must face. The film asks its audience to think about Serbian culture and its condition after the Yugoslav wars. Money is practically worthless, gangsters are the only local authority and the children who are subjected to these harsh realities attach themselves to the literal implications that the penetration of Western culture presents. The brutality of growing up in a decaying society in The Wounds has given way to violence, male sadistic dominance and the continuous infliction of new, collective wounds again and again over the barely healed scars of the past.