Clip is a raw, sophisticated, and stomach-turning look at what it means to be a young woman in Serbia, what it means to be a woman tout court. It follows the travails of Jasna (Isidora Simijonovic), a teenage girl trapped in the hopelessness of a Belgrade suburb and the deceptive hopefulness of digital technology, begging to be loved in a world that, at best, can only desire her. Filmmaker Maja Milos unveils the workings of a youth so lost in the sexual possibilities of its digital devices (Jasna’s cellphone camera is often the peephole through which we enter her intimacy), so transfixed by their masturbatory qualities, they become horny automatons. If the devices are new, the sexual schema is the same old violence: Girls compulsively filming their horny bodies in order to woo boys who are too busy hanging out with other boys to notice the urgency of their plea.
All texting is sexting here, and the cellphone is the only thing these youngsters actually own as their bodies are perennially offered to these boys who, if they bother to look, are only marginally interested. The phone, with its ability to capture and display girl body parts at will (no boys seem to own one), functions as a prosthesis, at once keeping Jasna’s dysfunctional family at bay and feeding the illusive gaze of boys who never see her as something other than a bitch.
One marvelous scene in Clip recalls the “becoming animal” final moments of Béla Tarr’s Damnation and the rubber-suited garbage man rummaging through the garbage dump like a horny critter in João Pedro Rodrigues’s O Fantasma. Jasna literally becomes a bitch on all fours, taking off a boy’s clothes with her teeth, barking quietly, his belt around her neck like a leash (it seems fitting that Simijonovic’s Facebook profile image reads “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man”). The boy in question is Djordje (Vukašin Jasni), her reluctant fuck buddy, a cocaine-sniffing bad boy for whom fucking Jasna is almost a concession he only sometimes makes, as he much prefers to either idly get a blowjob in their school restroom, or jack off to a naked cellphone video of Jasna even when she’s standing right in front of him, in the flesh and asking for him to kiss her.
When Jasna isn’t filling Djordje’s lack of interest with her own desperation, she’s still courting his gaze with her girlfriends. They play dress-up, lip sync to popular songs, and lick each other’s bellies for the camera. They bump and grind, drink stolen gin bottles, and start fights at clubs. In Milos’s Serbia, the emotional misery of family life robs girls of their ability to articulate their emotions and wants clearly. All they have left is their bodies, and an unmanageable, chaotic, and unfulfillable need for someone else to save them from their selves. Jasna, at one point, dismisses the impending death of her terminally ill father by saying that, “If he dies, I will not go to the funeral, I’ll take more ecstasy.”
It’s important to note that Milos hasn’t created an art-film affectation of a world here. This isn’t the fluffy “exposé” of digital narcissism that Andrew Neel attempted in King Kelly, nor does it recall the calculated indie-ness containing Dree Hemingway’s libido in Starlet. Clip is one of those rare films about young people, directed by a very young filmmaker, but with the gravitas of cinema crafted by very old European masters. It zeroes in on the very personal, sometimes the pornographic (real blow job scenes galore), only to reveal the rottenness of structures that go way beyond the gender and social politics of Serbia and that certainly pre-date the digital. The relationship of violent subjection between Jasna and the boys she so desperately tries to woo is so revolting (the last scene is a simultaneous sucker punch on screen and on the viewer) because it feels like home.