Fantastic Fest: ‘Vegetarian Cannibal’ Offers Up Something to Chew On, But the Substance May Leave You Wanting
by Michael Treveloni
Oil slicked waves have the hypnotic ability to be both beautiful and revolting. Without context it would be a brilliant sight. Unfortunately we know the destruction they bring about on their journey to expand and remain on top. Vegetarian Cannibal is a culture skimmed from those same sheened waves.
On the surface, Dr. Danko Babic (played like a more heartfelt Patrick Bateman by Rene Bitorajac) is a top gynecologist, the definition of excellence in his field. He delivers life into the world and aborts it daily at the fertility clinic he stomps around in. His impulses are driven by professionalism, sympathy and most importantly, money. With cash on the table, Babic death-rolls like a gator to guarantee that chunk-o-change goes home with him.
His free time is spent using drugs, having sex, attending dogfights and drumming to synthpop. He’s a self driven cyclone on a destructive course fueled by greed over ethics. Things are compounded when Babic is enlisted by a dirty cop to provide illegal abortions for a crime boss. It is a job he accepts as nonchalantly as a person finding a quarter on the ground.
Meanwhile, Babic schemes to dethrone the head of the clinic and appoint himself as the replacement. He also sexually harasses women with a nature second to breathing; results are mixed, some met with handfuls of ass while others are slaps to the face. Watching Babic at play is creepy in that his bravado has its own shadow; whatever it drapes either smiles in the shade or shrinks like a worm about to be eaten. He’s a carnivore on the prowl and the world is his hunting ground.
Materialism and boredom wear holes in his psyche where the only filler is more money. And so goes the story of Babic. His crusade is a selfish one wrought of scruples in favor of personal gain. If a problem surfaces his manipulative mind spins gears. If it falls short powerful favors or extra cash smooth over whatever bumps dot the road.
The film ends at a crossroad of contempt and pathos. Characters we’ve been dragged along with are hard to sympathize with, which is what Vegetarian Cannibal wants. To call it a failure is shortsighted. There isn’t one frame on screen where it pretends to be something different. From the onset we are shown corruption and the willingness to be corrupted and a microscopic view of Croatian politics in government and the personal pursuit of self gratification. It’s unblinking in presentation, reminiscent of a small scale cousin to 2008’s Gomorrah, complete with the tragedy and exhaustion. To make it through is a polarizing experience, one that tells us those oily waves will continue lapping and we’ll move on knowing they will always be there.
The Upside: Rene Bitorajac is flawless in his portrayal of a scummy doctor. Also his drumming is pretty boss.
The Downside: The ending will easily divide the audience.
On the side: No dogs were harmed in the making of this film. A misspelling in the subtitles jammed home the expression, “Holly crap!”