Toxic masculinity, the struggle to achieve ones dreams, and the culture of nightlife reign supreme in Afterparty.
The opening to Afterparty promises so much. Faded video reel shows Belgrade’s birth, with the promises of what this brand new city was meant to be. Flashing to the now, blaring electro pop, we are given a city of brutalist architecture with a personality in the regularity of graffiti which emblazons the concrete slabs to represent the people that live within. The film can be seen as a profile of the city, following our (not so) lovable hero Marko (Rade Cosic) as he traverses the city by day and night, vaguely pursuing a dream of acting and definitely trying to have sex with any girl he can.
And, for some of the film, I do root for this bandit. Working as a bartender, he manages to seduce many of the clubbers, all the while being not-so-secretly adored by childhood friend Tica (Jana Milosavljevic). As the film progresses with several club nights, we see that this is his home to some extent, and that this film is very much the male gaze. Women are filmed seductively, scenes play out in which girls readily give themselves to Marko, even with minimal charm put on. It would be difficult to accept the film as an insight into the thinking of men, if it weren’t for one scene early on that effectively portrays rape without much purpose. Boys will be boys, just like rapists will be rapists, and it’s a difficult one to get away from when it seems to be used simply as filler rather than to covey some sort of wrong doing. The scene is not especially important in the plot, and its throwaway inclusion puts the whole narrative into question for me. Ultimately, it’s very difficult to sympathise, and left a bitter taste for the rest of the movie.
The film is well produced, with blue light tinging the night in a cold and fervent glare while the days were vibrant, showing Belgrade off in all its charm
Marko is self-obsessed, selfish, and lazy. While there are glimmers of hope for his character, and I do think Cosic does well to give him some empathy, every choice he makes is still deeply irritating. On the flip side, Tica is played wonderfully by Milosavljevic, who deserves so much more than Marko. Her character breaks up the masculine focus of the film and makes it far more watchable. One scene, in which she tearfully sings karaoke to Marko allows her character more time to give the film some meaning above the visceral clubbing and masculine character portraits.
The film is well produced, with blue light tinging the night in a cold and fervent glare while the days were vibrant, showing Belgrade off in all its charm. The music was fantastic, and completely unknown to me, with electro and Serbian rap interspersed with the thudding club beats. If it weren’t for much of the subject matter, this would win out to make the film fantastically watchable. But the lack of a certain subject and minimal character progression kind of leaves the film as a charming slice of a Serbian bartender/actor’s life.
The first few scenes of Afterparty left me wanting for more, but there were only a few scenes that lived up to my expectations.
Image: Raindance 2017