Film review: “Balkanski špijun” (“Balkan Spy”)

I was only looking for a spy film from Yugoslavia to practice some Serbo-Croatian, and I found a true gem!

Balkanski špijun (Balkan Spy) was released in 1984 and is a comedy about an elderly gentleman who is asked to come to the police in Belgrade to provide some information about his tenant, who has just returned to Yugoslavia after living in France for 20 years. It’s a routine check, but the landlord (played masterfully, both in its comical and tragic aspect, by Danilo Stojković, pictured below) suspects that his tenant is a spy and starts following him. Anything he observes is evidence of a widening foreign plot to overthrow the Yugoslav government, and he takes it upon him to get to the bottom of it, recruiting his wife, his twin brother, quitting his job and going to even more extreme measures to become a full-time counter-spy.

The film is hilariously funny, even for people who know nothing about Yugoslavia. But on a deeper level, there is so much more: a story about a former Stalinist who went to prison himself is now trying to save the nation, the wife who initially thinks that her husband has gone crazy but becomes supportive as she realizes that his life found a meaning again, surprisingly open criticism of corruption, inflation, bureaucracy and economic hardship in socialist Yugoslavia, the paranoia or suspicion about anything foreign, the tension between old-school socialists and free-market entrepreneurs, and how for someone believing in a conspiracy, all facts and non-facts only support his theory. Not only the latter point is still topical at times, and not only in the Balkans.

Here is the complete film with English subtitles, and trust me, you have a great movie night ahead of you.

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Cinema, Politics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Film review: “Balkanski špijun” (“Balkan Spy”)

  1. Jedan od boljih filmova ex Yu.

  2. If you haven’t seen it before and if you’re open for recommendations, here’s a clip from one of the best Yugoslav dark comedies – “Maratonci trče počasni krug” – the movie script was written in pretty elegant Serbo-Croatian, too:

  3. brokenradius says:

    Are these movies from the pre- Kusturica period ?

    • I had to check, and Kusturica’s “Papa ist auf Dienstreise” for example was also released in 1984, the same year as “Balkan Spy”.

    • crna8888 says:

      Muvie is before before Kusturica period.It is old Yugislavian muvie,one of 10 historical from Yugislavian cinema.

  4. Pingback: For my readers in Yugoslavia | The Happy Hermit

  5. Pingback: „Deutschland 89“ – eine eher durchwachsene Geschichte | Der reisende Reporter

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