9 - 5


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

9 - 5
"Tonally awkward, deliciously so, a film full of textures."

"A remote control ball you move with your face," but that's a later detail. At first it's a desperate and headlong rush, an illuminated sphere into the polished concrete. One of those office spaces that promises a degree of futurity that the politics of capital will never allow, the absence of Three Walls making it no less a prison.

"Are you nervous?" he's asked, but it's more than that. If the function of advertising is to lie to one another in the interests of procurement, it's anyone's guess what dropping a spoon while half-heartedly consuming pornography ostensibly shot in the first person might mean. Tonally awkward, deliciously so, a film full of textures. Chicken thighs with skin and bone in a pan. Wood panel, checkered tablecloths. A squeeze of lemon has a sharpness that is both native and from context. Everything is bathed in a feeling slightly acid, pithy.

Copy picture

Those textures include light, landscapes. Or more specifically interiors, office-corridors, dimly lit industry functions, sexless bedrooms. What little that is left to the imagination is still in service to Masa Sarovic and Marko Markovic's direction and script. Igor Lazic's camera mirrors the stark interiority of our protagonist, light itself participating in a flattening of affect. When it arrives, the redness of respite is enough to extinguish any doubt.

Contrasting with its nominative twin, there's plenty of grist. A specific rating system and its warning signs are miles from Parton's "cup of ambition." Where intersectional feminism was strength there, here it is more about emasculation. The setting might be advertising, but circumstance is the destruction of agency. For all its affect it is affecting, and Sarovic's perspective on a crisis of masculinity is compelling. Unlike Fight Club or American Psycho where satire might be (and, frankly, often is) seen as valorisation of that which it seeks to condemn, the ways in which even underwear is undermining are overpowering.

There are small elements of the subtitling that can be worked around, a 'conquest' that should probably be a 'challenge', a 'risible' that isn't. Those don't matter in truth, there's much more in tone and expression. Ivan's face, Vera's body-language, the roar of some flavour of metal through headphones obliterating even the silence of a meeting behind glass. Without speech or even text I think this would still work; suffering in silence would suffer silence. Given how often events take place around barely visible borders, glass-walls, personal audio, taxi-cab and meeting-room windows, there's still a lot unseen. It's hard to judge how much of one's reading is a product of implication or extrapolation when the text is as minimal as this, and I don't know if I'd want my hand (or anything else) held any more.

While it's being shown as part of 2023's Ca'Foscari festival, accidents of scheduling mean I'm watching it in the run-up to Glasgow's Short Film Festival. The co-working and creative spaces of Belgrade might be miles away but the mixtures of post-industrial glass and dying plants, of coffee pods and Apple toolbars, of too-tight table-cloths and hipster haircuts are spiritual twins to the soulless spaces where what funds are adjacent to the arts are willing to set out their stalls. A meeting hampered by the glare of PowerPoint or its equivalent has a backdrop of Brutalist apartment blocks, but the serried ranks of stressed concrete are kinder in comparison than the constructive criticisms.

There's a discussion about quality over quantity and through its 20 odd minutes the film is firmly with the former. A colleague has a theory about the genital implications of the title of In The Cut, and, puckish, I'd say the same here. That it's unabashedly European about that aspect means you're unlikely to see it uncut as an American or anywhere the BBFC holds sway. That there's as much meat and flesh around is part of what makes this such a viscerally satisfying film. Post-watershed, with blood shed, 9 - 5 takes a setting that's about making up numbers and finds a way to, distinctively, stand up and be counted.

Reviewed on: 22 Mar 2023
Share this with others on...
9 - 5 packshot
An inexperienced copywriter must face the pressures of work and the expectations of his surroundings, which have an increasing impact on his sex life.

Director: Maša Šarović

Writer: Marko Markovic

Starring: Pavle Cemerikic, Mira Janjetovic, Vladimir Kovacevic, Denis Muric

Year: 2023

Runtime: 21 minutes

Country: Serbia


Ca' Foscari 2023

Search database: