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Future Frames Review: Clean


- Battling it out in the EFP’s Future Frames programme at Karlovy Vary, Neven Samardžić’s short student film boasts a compelling central performance, courtesy of actor Nerman Mahmutović

Future Frames Review: Clean

The struggles of those dealing with drug addiction have often been documented in film. In mainstream cinema alone, the disparate likes of Trainspotting, Requiem For A Dream and The Panic In Needle Park have all examined the terrible effects drugs can wield on human beings. In his short film Clean, director Neven Samardžić takes some of the tropes that we’ve come to associate with the drug-themed film and gives them a spin sufficiently unique in kind to transform this film into a fresh – and sometimes hopeful – character study.

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After witnessing his friend’s accidental death by overdose, Fudo (Nerman Mahmutović) decides the time has come for him to get clean for good. But this is easier said than done, because his friends and family just won’t give him the chance to prove he’s changed. Even his own mother is reluctant to let him back into her life. What does he have to do to prove that he’s clean? After all, if no-one’s going to believe you’ve really changed, what’s the point of getting clean in the first place?

The success of Clean is largely due to the solid performance delivered by Mahmutović, who lends a sense of credibility and injects a good dose of nervous energy into Fudo’s character. His is a thin and gaunt presence, making its way across the screen as Fudo slides in and out of people’s lives, desperate for a modicum of trust from those around him. He brings vulnerability and angry defiance to a character who finds himself continually turned away by the people in his world, despite his dogged insistence that he has turned over a new leaf.

The film is circumspect as regards Fudo’s behaviour before his current sobriety; though subtle hints are dropped about his actions, the film is at pains to keep the audience on his side at all times. Small victories – such as finding a menial job – become resounding triumphs in our eyes. But there is a lingering sense that without any support, Fudo will slide right on back into his old habits, and when he’s rejected by the person he loves the most, this descent seems almost inevitable.

Samardžić’s filming approach is largely naturalistic (with sprinklings of magical realism), faithfully conveying the often-grim reality of Fudo’s situation. But it also offers us moments of transcendence. At one point, the only way that Fudo can wash is to douse himself with water in a car park, an act witnessed by a young boy, who then proceeds to help him in his ablutions. Such a scene would normally represent a low point in life – a man reduced to washing himself in a car park - but here it becomes a moment of rebirth, of rejuvenation. As he soaks his hair and the hot sun blazes down upon him, Fudo is both figuratively and literally clean, and the possibilities for a new form of existence appear endless.

Ending on a slightly ambiguous note, Clean is a film of victory and of despair. It makes the point that “getting clean” doesn’t necessarily mean that we change from one state of being to another, but rather that we must continually battle to stay on the right side of hope.

A product of the Sarajevo Academy of Performing Arts, Samardžić’s work already won the ‘Heart of Sarajevo’ award at the Sarajevo Film Festival 2017. Its screening at European Film Promotion's Future Frames at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival should win it a few more fans, though at almost 40 minutes long, it might not get the visibility that it perhaps deserves on the circuit.

For more information on Clean, click here.

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