The saying “desperate times calls for desperate measures” cannot be more true than in the case of the Serbian film Klopka (The Trap). When his young son develops a heart condition that requires an immediate surgery at the cost of €30,000, a young civil engineer named Mladen is faced with a harrowing situation: find the money or suffer the loss of his child. Mladen’s wife, Marija, takes it upon herself to put an ad in the paper beseeching the aid of strangers in order to save her child.
Told through sparse and emotionally gripping cinematography, Klopka tells the tale of the choices that Mladen must make thanks to a seemingly heaven-sent answer to Marija’s ad—kill a man to get the much needed €30,000. As the situation with the child worsens, Mladen finally decides his—and his son’s—fate.
Director Srdan Golubovic tells the magnetic story through artistic camera angles and realistic situations. Relying on natural sounds, such as harsh breathing or heavy Belgrade traffic, Golubovic paints his story beautifully despite the slow pace and unhurried plot advances. The gritty, realistic edge allows viewers to integrate themselves into the film as the emotions of the characters are so palpable that they are almost tangible.
Nevertheless, Klopka’s tale of a man struggling with the moral dilemma of taking a life for the sake of saving another is an age-old issue, and one that modern-day, post-Milosevic Serbia knows well. The issue of corruption remains eminent in Belgrade, and is seen within the confines of Klopka as the gangster vs. the world mentality of Mladen’s mysterious benefactor.
While Serbia has been struggling to find peace after the end of the Socialist Party of Serbia’s reign, the United Nations has offered aid. After the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, the United Nations established the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in order to help Serbia move on from its violent past and work with the existing government to ensure stability. The Republic of Serbia remained a part of the United Nations even after Montenegro declared independence in 2006, and so has been with the UN since its predecessor, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, joined in 1945. The UN’s mission relies on the willingness of the Serbian people to stop illegal activity and strive for a just and humanitarian nation. The presence of illegal activity through such means as gangs and their unlawful practices has been a source of problems for Serbia, and so the UN has helped offer support through various UN organizations operating within the country. These include the ICTY, UNDP, UNHCHR, and UNODC.
Klopka’s central focus of exchanging an innocent life for that of a reputed gangster is the perfect example of the situations that Serbia, the world, and ultimately the UN must face. Human lives, to some, are easily expendable, and the UN hopes to spread awareness that, no matter the situation, taking a person’s life can and should be avoided.
Despite, or perhaps because of, its dense and politically poignant nature, Klopka has made quite an impression on me. Through the scenes on the Belgrade streets to the glimpses inside homes and families, this movie has allowed me to see inside the world of a struggling nation, and into the hearts of the Serbian people. While most people do not have to make the choices that Mladen is forced to make, maybe his story will allow viewers to see the possible consequences that such a situation can reap. Klopka is available at the Iowa City Public Library, and I urge those wishing to understand a universal situation through a Serbian lens to watch this movie.
Amanda Shine – International Movie Reviewer