Croatian candidate for Oscar, the film is scarier and creepier than any horror. A film that from the very beginning to the end causes stomach cramps, causes almost physical nausea, and yet it is a film that is definitely worth seeing. A traumatic drama about suicide that we haven’t had the chance to see in Croatian cinematography and a film in which the screenwriter, director and lead actor Juraj Lerotić decided to deal with his own ghosts. Everything in “Safe Place” seems all the more terrifying because, regardless of the fact that it is a feature film, we are aware that it is not fiction, but that Lerotić made the film based on his own trauma in his brother’s attempted suicide.
So here we follow the 24 hours during which Bruno (Lerotić), and later his mother (Snježana Sinovčić), try to save the life of his brother or son Damir (Goran Marković). Immediately in the opening scene, we see Bruna running towards the building in Zagreb where Damir lives, breaks in and calls the emergency services because he tried to take her own life. He cut his hands and neck, he barely survived, he was hospitalized, no one is clear what and how led to this. A month ago, Damir moved from Split to Zagreb for work and he seemed a little strange, says Bruno, but there was no hint that something similar could happen. Soon their mother arrives in Zagreb from Split, they try to understand and figure out how and why, but there is no answer, and Damir is clearly not well.
They are trying to find a safe place for Damir, to comfort him, to help him, but can he be helped at all? It is a film that is so difficult to describe and explain, and it is not a classic docudrama since we have some dreamlike parts when Bruno talks to his brother as if he is already dead. Probably, those traumatic days are somehow blurry in the author’s memory, reality, nightmares, dark thoughts and everything that must go through a person’s head when someone close to them commits something similar have completely mixed up from the shock and trauma. There is actually nothing logical in the act of suicide itself and it was always completely impossible for me to comprehend the fact that someone decided to take their own life and I will probably never be able to understand that decision.
Thus, “Safe Place” seems a bit like a complete nightmare. Like a terrible, creepy horror about a young man who we understand is not well. And that he needs to be helped somehow, but how? He refuses help, behaves completely irrationally, as if he has lost all ties with reality and how can people around him act in such a situation? How do you even manage in a situation when, until yesterday, at least on the outside, a normal and healthy man whom you have known all your life has simply disappeared, and in his place it is as if someone else is in his body and ruling over him? It’s a movie that, even as I’m writing this the day after watching it, those unpleasant tingles in my body pass and it’s a movie that makes me think.
We all believe and hope that we will never find ourselves in this situation, but it is a painful and sad truth that many people probably found themselves in Lerotić’s shoes. It’s a situation that we don’t want to think about at all, and if something similar comes to mind while everything is fine, we try to banish those dark thoughts as soon as possible and think about something more pleasant. One of the questions that keeps running through my mind after this movie is how would I manage in such a situation? How to react at all, how to position yourself, think, what to do. Would everything have ended differently if we had acted in a different way, if some other decision had been made instead of one, or if there was simply no such help?
“Safe Place” is by no means a pleasant movie to watch. And not only because of the topic, but also because of the overall atmosphere, which is difficult, painful, painful. When the scream from the screen broke through the cinema hall at the end, I almost started to feel dizzy and my legs almost fell off. However, it is a film that bravely deals with taboo topics such as suicide, mental illness and traumatic events in the family that are usually not talked about. I don’t know which film I would compare “A Safe Place” to, and all the awards it won at the festival in Locarno, then in Sarajevo, were fully deserved. Although it would probably be easiest and safest to bypass “Safe Place” and not let in all the blackness and sadness that it carries, I think you should still muster up the courage and see this shocking, traumatic and painful personal story.