Two college studs compete with one another to see how many girls they can sleep with. The starting premise of Panama would make it seem like a typical, campy college film, but it doesn’t take long for it to enter much darker territories. The story zeroes in on one of them, Jovan, a typical yuppie, sufficiently obnoxious, who wouldn’t be hard to see as a Jason Bateman few years down the line. He is startled and greatly confused by his encounter with Maja, a beautiful girl. The two start going out, despite his establishing the “no strings attached” rule right from the start. But it is clear that he is getting more and more fond of her as time goes by, which is problematic, because of his narcissistic and possessive nature, a nature that is spurred on by today’s world and culture, influenced by social media and pornography.
Paranoia and mystery particularly arises from Jovan’s Facebook stalking of Maja’s page, and from this we notice his jealousy arise. This mystery based on identity, projected or otherwise, and manipulative romance is a reference to Vertigo by first time filmmaker Pavle Vuckovic. The influence can actually be noticed in the cinematography as well, which further reveals the influence of Hitchcock’s Vertigo on Panama despite Panama being shot with digital cameras. Aside from this and some of the narrative elements, Panama very much stands on its own, and is also equally a child of its times. The aforementioned use of social media and the ambitions of the central young man are part of today’s world.
On top of this, there is a prominence of sex scenes that is purposeful. Sex, creative, explorative, dirty and fearless, is what the relationship between Maja and Jovan is based on. In contrast to their empty conversations and the general boredom they seem to experience in each other’s presence, the sex they have is wild and exciting. More than that, as the film progresses, sex also marks the only times when Jovan is truly content with himself and with Maja. When they are not having sex, he is jealous, prone to bouts of anger and giving into pathological obsessions with his femme fatale.
Panama is a provocative film. It’s true flaw is that it is often not as consistently intense as it should be, and doesn’t dare enough to have a bite. In its structural imperfections, even the sex scenes seem too many and a times look to stretch out the film too much. As a film, it is certainly prone to excesses and viewers might find its sexual politics unsettling. This is not a critique on the film, but an inevitable observation on the way it is bound to be received by a large portion of the audience. In many ways, people who are not used to films built around so called anti-heroes might be offended by its portrayal of women. This however overlooks what might be the most important theme of Panama – the theme of transformation.