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RIOTS (2017, SRB) – 7/10

Several years late, I finally watched this dystopian arty drama – a thriller by Dejan Zečević, a Belgrade director whom I remember well from his earlier films “The Enemy” and “The Fourth Man”. I see on IMDB that he is filming a big man and various series that I bypassed, but “Izgrednici” is both stylistically and thematically an extremely interesting film whose action, as far as it seems to me, takes place in the present, and yet it all seems somehow dystopian. Thematically, “Outlaws” reminded me a bit of the German film “The Wave” by Dennis Gansel, because there we also have a teacher who starts an experiment with the students that will completely get out of control. Admittedly, here instead of a high school, we have students, graduates of sociology studies, who, under the mentorship of professor Zurovac (Svetozar Cvetković), will design a social experiment for their graduation thesis on how urban decay leads to chaos in society.

This film was shot in black and white with a vertical image, thus creating an additional atmosphere of coldness, discomfort and alienation, and after the professor’s interesting introductory presentation on the Theory of Tetris, the students will start the experiment. Former hooligan and fan Aleksandar (Radovan Vujović) and Teodora (Marta Bjelica) are in a relationship, but Teodora is also having an affair with a professor and has just found out that she is pregnant. Danijel (Mladen Sovilj) is a seemingly typical geek who lives with a sick mother, and as part of the experiment, they each installed a surveillance camera at their location in Belgrade. Before that, they made some “mischief” at the same locations. Danijel spray painted a swastika on the wall, Aleksandar breaks a street lamp every now and then, and Teodora dumped a pile of garbage in front of the apartment complex.

All of them are waiting to see what will happen, because according to the theory, some incident should happen and their encroachment into the space should lead to at least some small disturbances. But time passes, nothing happens, and they all slowly lose patience. And just when they thought of giving up, something will start to happen, and it’s clear that the experiment will get out of control, and that on several levels. Zečević, or rather screenwriter Đorđe Milosavljević, came up with a good and interesting idea, all three main characters are extremely interesting and very well built, and an exceptional, uneasy, almost dehumanizing dystopian atmosphere was achieved, which is further enhanced by the pulsating electronic music.

Although it is obvious that “Outlaws” was a film made with a modest budget, it was once again shown that a high-quality and well-designed idea, with of course an inspired team that knows how to present the same idea, is often much more important than a bunch of money. Miladin Čolaković’s black-and-white photography is also great, often static and with numerous shots through the interiors or the apartments where the three main characters live. It is a film that seems to explore the theories of chaos and not only the chaos around us, but also the chaos within us and asks whether this chaos can be overcome, but also what can happen when you try to manipulate the parameters in this type of experiment.