In an age when quantity trumps quality and lives can be judged on the number of Facebook likes, commitment-averse teens have reduced sex to a numbers game.
The film, which screened to positive reviews at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and has attracted attention for its steamy sex scenes, receives its premiere in Belgrade, this week (Wednesday, 21 October).
Slaven, aged 24, takes the lead in this dark look at a hedonistic whirl of porn-fuelled experiences and no-ties sex replacing genuine interest in other people.
But while social media can be the conduit to these self-gratifying hook-ups, it can also waken age-old vices such as jealousy, pride and greed.
Slaven plays Jovan, a good-looking young man for whom sex is a score and the idea of any commitment, whether to his studies or a relationship, is still an unfathomable concept.
Even though Jovan has returned to university after dropping out, he is not so committed to his studies that he cannot go clubbing, clocking up nightly notches on his bedpost.
In a contest of cheeky charm versus chiselled good looks, Jovan and his irresponsible best friend Milan (Milos Pjevac) keep detailed score of their sexual conquests, with a monthly award their only endgame. And Jovan is often the loser.
Undeniably, the camera loves Slaven, and Pavle Vucković makes full use of that in Panama.
From the washed-out pastels of lake-side summers to the convincing sex scenes, Slaven’s self-assured performance leaves a lasting impression that will cement his new-found fame.
One slight niggle is Jovan’s stream of prominently branded sports shirts, which he switches in almost every scene. If there was a drinking game linked to how often he changes his clothes, I wouldn’t have made it to the end of the film.
During one of his regular nights on the pull, Jovan moves in on his latest hook-up Maja (Jovana Stojiljkovic). What he does not count on is that great sex with this one-night stand should take a dark turn.
Despite Maja agreeing, if a little reluctantly, to a no-ties sexual relationship, Jovan believes that she has other ideas. Unable to express his feelings, Jovan opens the door to the green-eyed monster.
What starts out as a glance over Maja’s shoulder to see a text message soon descends into spying on her social media accounts and other stalker-like behaviour. When he can’t get Maja out of his system, Slaven’s attentions veer towards obsession and he tracks her movements via social media, with inevitable consequences.
Serbian cinema audiences should rush to Panama
While the thriller elements of the film kick in, it never really commits to a particular genre. Coupled with some under-realised story elements, it is easy to feel that illuminating footage was left on the cutting room floor.
These are relatively minor issues, though, and should not detract from general enjoyment of the film, largely thanks to acting that holds it all together.
This should ensure that Panama does well on the festival circuit and, with a release that is timed perfectly to capitalise on Slaven’s current popularity and the success of Pored Mene, it should perform well in Serbian cinemas, too.
- Panama (103 mins) is produced by Tatjana Zezelj for Collapse Films.
- Directed by Pavle Vuckovic, starring Slaven Doslo and Jovana Stojiljkovic.
- Premiere: Sava Centre, Belgrade (Wednesday, 21 October)