The Man Who Could Not Remain Silent


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Man Who Could Not Remain Silent
"Slijepcevic is a documentarian by trade and he maintains a strong sense of realism."

The idea that evil thrives in silence is not a new one but it is brought home with emotional punch in the latest short by Nebojša Slijepčević. His tense drama unfolds in a place which could scarcely have more witnesses - the busy carriages of a train. It’s 1993 - an era indicated by the walkman headphones sported by one passenger - and the train is travelling through Bosnia and Herzegovina when it is stopped unexpectedly. None of this is stated outright, an appropriate decision for a situation which you sense could be taking place any time and anywhere, especially given the current state of the world. Soon the train is boarded by paramilitary forces bent on ethnic cleansing and demanding to see people’s ID.

Slijepčević is a documentarian by trade and he maintains a strong sense of realism - there’s attention to detail in those headphones and a believable sweep to the narrative. He also keeps us guessing, focusing first on passenger Dagan (Goran Bogdan) who looks decidedly worried about the incursion before his film bends and twists in unexpected ways. To say much more about the plot - even though it is sadly based on a true incident with which some may be familiar - would be to spoil the tension that Slijepčević carefully mounts in a single carriage where Dagan is travelling with a group of strangers including a young man (Silvio Mumelaš) and a much older one (Dragan Mićanović).

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The writer/director asks us to consider what we would do in their situation, if someone we didn’t know suddenly came under what we instinctively know is an existential threat. Beyond showing an act of heroism, Slijepcevic also demonstrates how easy it is to instinctively be complicit even if you believe you would not. All of this is brought home at close quarters by Gregor Bozic’s camerawork, which makes us feel as though we are in the carriage as well.

The Man Who Could Not Remain Silent deservedly took home the short film Palme d’Or in Cannes. It is perfectly self-contained but could just as easily be part of a longer narrative. If Slijepčević has one in mind, let’s hope he gets the funding for it as he clearly has an aptitude for turning fact into gripping fiction with a point to make.

Reviewed on: 28 May 2024
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Tension mounts on a passenger train after it is stopped by paramilitaries.

Director: Nebojša Slijepčević

Writer: Nebojša Slijepčević

Starring: Goran Bogdan, Alexis Manenti, Dragan Mićanović, Silvio Mumelaš, Lara Nekić, Nebojša Pop Tasić

Year: 2024

Runtime: 14 minutes

Country: Croatia


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