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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


TRIBECA MOVIE REVIEW: White White World, a film by Oleg Novkovic

The Ancient Greeks were obsessed with the tragedy of the human condition, fascinated with worst-case scenarios and the way people react when their entire lives fall apart.  This tradition has been revisited with “White White World,” a Serbian film that owes much of its plot to a well-known Greek masterpiece – Oedipus.

To fully explain the connections between the patricidal King Oedipus who is doomed by a prophecy and the main tragic hero of “White White World” would be to give away the most poignant and unexpected secret of the entire film.  There is a beauty in the misfortune of this man who loses not only a mentor in his former boxing coach, but also a lover, the coach’s wife with whom he was having an affair. News of this betrayal, which caused the coach to threaten his wife, led to her fatally stabbing him and being sent to jail for seven years.  In this indirect way, King (most conveniently named), was responsible for the death of the man closest to a father he ever had.  The same fate is endured by Oedipus, although King is much more quickly aware of his role in the matter.  As King moves on with his life, he is haunted by his coach and lover’s daughter, a rebelliously beautiful teenager named Rosa.  Upon their first meeting at his bar, where Rosa purposely seeks him out, King comments on how much she looks like her father, and then falls into a whirlwind romance that is nothing but poisonous and abusive.

The more King wants to get rid of Rosa, it seems the more she wants to stay.  Forever by her side, she confides in her closest friend, Tiger.  Tiger and his sister complete the web of love, lies and betrayal in the little mining town of Bor that these characters occupy.  Although Tiger is madly in love with Rosa, she refuses his advances and stubbornly refuses to give up on her pursuit of King.  She becomes pregnant with King’s baby, and is subsequently banished by him.  Tiger offers to take Rosa away where they can live in peace and she desperately agrees as King goes to her mother, his former love, to talk about his illness and feelings for Rosa.  After a truly tragic secret is revealed during their encounter, King goes to find Rosa and take her back.

Throughout the movie the color white is used to symbolize purity, but in a very unconventional and even sarcastic way.  When Rosa dons her white sleep clothes after sneaking King into her bedroom for the first of their many lustful nights, she reminds the viewer of her young age.  When Tiger takes the drugs that will ultimately lead to something terrible for him, they are white, showing that white can also symbolize a sick sort of salvation and return to purity.

Beautifully terrible and symbolic, “White White World” is a movie that makes the viewer feel as if they have entered a world even more real than their own.  The scarcity of dialogue and occasional song to express the pure bleakness of the situation leave the audience in a constant inner struggle about how they feel the characters should behave.  With no clear way out, the viewers become aware of the truth of life, the fact that even in a “white white world” nothing is ever just black or white.

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  • C

    cecibolocaApr 25, 2011 at 6:23 am

    The title of the film, White White World, refers to the destination of hope,change, and the unknown facing one when setting off for new unfamiliar shores in search of a better life, in Serbian the expression is “otici u beli svet”, heading to a land of opportunity. It is a grim existence and misery the characters in this film would gladly escape and surely aspire to leave behind.
    Unfortunately, the literal English translation of the title is misleading and does not do justice to the meaning behind the tortured existential journey it depicts in a mishmash of artistic genres which the director miraculously manages to pull off though at 121 minutes, it is too long by 30′.