28-year-old Serbian writer-director Maja Milos’ debut feature Clip (Klip) has been the talk of Rotterdam. It was a polarising film drawing some praise and some outrage. “At least nobody is indifferent to the film,” Milos says.
The story follows a young teenage girl who has a frustrating home life and turns to sex, drinking and drug abuse as she tries to establish her identity. As her father goes into hospital, a burgeoning relationship with a local boy starts to intensify. The film shows very explicit sex acts as a matter-of-fact part of the teens’ lives.
Milos, a graduate of film directing from the University of Arts in Gelgrade, has directed a number of short films including Interval, Si tu timazin, Cousins, and Dush.
Clip was backed by the Serbian Ministry of Culture and the City of Belgrade Film Fund. Tuck releases the film theatrically in Serbia in March, and no international sales company has been appointed yet.
Of her future plans, Milos says, “I’m sure that I want to make social films and to deal with sexuality in male-female relationships, that is something that I am excited about.
The film wasn’t what I was expecting, I found it more layered than a story like this could have been presented.
My point was that I didn’t want to make an exploitation film. I wanted to make an intimate film. People are really reacting to the film, whether they like it or not.
What interests me most is social commentary about Serbia. It doesn’t have to be a film about social problems, but for me the most important thing is that with this film was at what point on the social pyramid these people are. I saw a lot of clips on YouTube about bullying and sex, and I thought this was an itch for me, and I will scratch it.
I wanted it to be a love story, because all their explicitness in their behaviour, it was so raw and I really wanted to find in that environment where you could find love.
I didn’t want to make a judgmental film, I wanted to make an intimate story.
You seem to capture the way teenagers are, and not the way adults imagine them to be. Did you work with them on the script?
I wrote the script after doing a lot of my own research. And then in casting, I spoke to a lot of young people. I would talk about their problems and their experiences and the experiences from their surroundings. I was casting for two years. I put some more authentic things in the script, and updated the dialogue in my script. We really made that authenticity together.
How did you work with the actors?
I tried to work with 18- and 19-year-olds and that was just a completely different generation. They didn’t give me that rawness. When I just saw the 14-and 15-year-olds, I knew that was where my film was. They are really fresh. They have real life examples in their surroundings, they knew what the film was about. They know of the problems, they know what is going on.
We rehearsed a lot, almost every day for four months. I really wanted them to not judge those characters. They are not from the same background. We had a lot of trust, we had a really open relationship. We improvised a lot in rehearsals but when we got to the set we had it locked. Because it was such a long process, they really became those characters.
Your lead actress, Isidora Simijonovic, was amazing. Had she acted before?
No, this is her first casting. When I saw her, I knew it was her. She was 14 when we started shooting, she is 16 now. [She is now working in theatre and has another film role lined up.]
I was very open with her, and also with the parents. I wasn’t hiding something. For me it was great when I spoke to the parents, they knew everything the film was about. I eanred their trust while speaking a lot to them.
The sex scenes have shocked some people. You’ve noted that the young actors weren’t naked or engaged in those explicit scenes.
Yes, we used body doubles, prostheses, effects. We had it really planned.
Also, it wasn’t just sex scenes, it’s the development of that relationship. They are communicating only through sex.
Even if they weren’t getting naked in these scenes, those young actors are still exposed to this sexually explicit storyline. The parents didn’t have a problem with that?
I spoke to the parents about every scene, every shot very, very honestly. I tried to show my view of the reality of what’s going on in Serbia openly.
For me it would be pornographic NOT to show that. I’m making a film about teenagers who are all into sex, that’s the main thing they are thinking about. Not showing that would be a lie.
When the kids saw the film the first time, with their parents, they were all amazed. Mothers cried, they said this is a touching story.
For me it was very important to show how sometimes people in this harsh environment express their emotions very cruelly. But also in the film I wanted to show that they are full of love.