Balkan Spy
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  • Balkan Spy
  • 95 minutes  -  Comedy
  • Original title: Balkanski Špijun
  • Director:Dušan Kovačević and Božidar Nikolić
  • Language: Serbian
  • Country: Serbia

Ilija Čvorović is an ordinary man in 1980s Yugoslavia. His tenant has recently moved to Belgrade from Paris, and Ilija is suspicious of the newcomer from the West. A comedy about life under communism, and one of the most popular Serbian movies ever made.

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Review posted: 02/12/2013

Amongst numerous Serbian comedies, those written by the Dušan Kovačević have left a mark not only on Serbian culture but also on Serbian language. Many phrases and legendary lines spoken by his anti-heroes have entered everyday speech. Although filmed almost 30 years ago, Balkan Spy is still quite modern, answers universal questions, and is still amusing and funny.

"The situations the protagonist falls into are absurd and hilarious, and they provide 90 minutes of the best comedy ever."

The plot is quite simple. The main character, Ilija Čvorović (portrayed by Danilo Bata Stojković, one of the best actors Serbia ever had), is an ordinary man living in Belgrade in the early 80s. He has to keep a tenant in order to pay the bills on time, and since his tenant (portrayed by another luminary of Serbian cinema, Bora Todorović) has just moved back to Belgrade from Paris, Ilija is quite suspicious about him. Serbia at the time was part of Yugoslavia, where there was a communist government. And naturally, the newcomer from the capitalist West raises suspicions.

As the movie progresses, Ilija starts spying on his tenant, and the whole ordeal becomes quite serious as he dedicates all of his time and resources on following the guy. He loses his job, gets in all sorts of troubles, and spends all of his money trying to prove that his tenant is in fact a CIA agent sent to Belgrade to plan terrorist attacks. The whole thing gets even better when Ilija calls on his brother so they can join forces and prevent the tenant from fulfilling his task. The only problem is that the tenant is just trying to start a business in Belgrade and settle back into the town where he grew up. The situations Ilija falls into are absurd and hilarious, and they provide 90 minutes of the best comedy ever.

"Balkan Spy is definitely one of the most important Serbian movies ever made."

Linguistically, Balkan Spy has more than influenced the contemporary urban vocabulary of Serbians. Some phrases, such as “CIA snajka, CIA. Upropastili su pola sveta” (CIA, my sister [in law], CIA. They corrupted half of the world), have made it into daily conversation. This quote is used to describe any kind of spy activity, both in a comic and a real sense. Numerous other phrases, such as “orao pao“ (the eagle has fallen) or “to su neki čobani, budale” (these are some sheppards, fools) have also entered common usage. Balkan Spy is definitely one of the most important Serbian movies ever made. Since the cast is arguably among the best ever gathered in local cinema history, this movie has all the qualities that a great film should possess. Naturally, as it is a comedy, expectations should not be too high regarding profound ideas and important messages. But it still has artistic value.