Damjan Kozole’s Nightlife is an interesting examination of the dark side of Slovenia that aptly takes place during the course of one night. Lawyer Milan (Jernej Sigman) has just won a controversial legal case on a technicality. Although we never find out any of the details of the case, we understand that his client is a no-good guy. The victory leaves Milan morally troubled and adds tension to his already strained relationship with his wife, Lea (Pia Zemljic), who accuses his use of legal acrobatics. That night, Milan heads out on an unspecified business errand. He will be found later by a group of partygoers, who discover him lying half-dead and half-naked, bleeding massively from multiple dog bites and with a large strap-on sex toy nearby.
Although this may appear to be the premise for a standard whodunnit feature, fans of this particular genre may be frustrated by Nightlife, which, in Kafkaesque fashion, is actually the story of a mystery that is never resolved. In fact, Kozole is interested in the obfuscation of information and the harshness of an uncaring bureaucracy.
Lea, who soon becomes the main character of the film, is powerfully interpreted by Zemljic as an ambivalent character, neither sympathetic nor unsympathetic. Brutally shaken by the sudden event, she is forced to ironically apply the same type of shady tactics she had attached her husband for only a hours earlier in order to avoid a potential scandal. Herein lies one of the messages of the film; bending the rules is only a terrible thing if it’s done for anyone’s benefit but yours.
Cleverly, Kozole keeps himself at a distance from both characters and plot. The handheld camerawork, sometimes excessively shaky, adds a sense of urgency to the development of the film. But there’s no true sense of suspense; just an unsettling sense of disorientation, leaning towards distraction. Nightlife is a frustrating film to watch. Nonetheless, Kozole would have betrayed the film’s intentions by instigating any other type of reaction from the viewer. – ★★★★
NOCNO ZIVLJENJE | 2016, Slovenia / Republic of Macedonia / Bosnia and Herzegovina | Thriller | Directed by – Damjan Kozole / Produced by – Amra Baksic Camo, Adis Djapo, Danijel Hocevar, Labina Mitevska / Written by – Damjan Kozole Ursa Menart, Ognjen Svilicic / Cinematography by -Miladin Colakovic / Music by – Kostov, Silence / Editing by – Jurij Moskon, Ivo Trajkov / Starring – Pia Zemljic, Jernej Sugman, Marko Mandic, Peter Musevski, Petre Arsovski / Running time: 85 mins.