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‘Incarnation’ (review)

Produced by Marco Jocic,
Djordje Stankovic, Filip Kovacevic

Written by Filip Kovacevic,
Masa Senicic,
Ivan Senicic
Directed by Filip Kovacevic
Starring Stojan Djordjevic, Daca Vidosavljevic,
Sten Zendor, Vidan Dojcinovic, Bogdan Petrovic,
Tihomir Stanic, Dejan Cicmilovic, Zarko Stepanov


There is nothing quite as disjointing as déjà vu, that feeling that we have been in the same place before.

It is unnerving to look around and sense that you have gone through the same motions, the same path, and the same interactions, especially if it ends in a less than favorable outcome.

This is the fate of our main character in Incarnation. The race to inevitability and struggle to change what is already written makes for an interesting and gripping thriller from writer/director Filip Kovacevic.

Upon waking on a bench in the city center, a young average-appearing man (Stojan Djordjevic) realizes he has lost all of his memories. While he tries to figure out what is going on, four masked assassins appear and dispatch him with ease. What should be the man’s death is short lived, as he wakes up again on the exact same bench, with the only memory being his recent demise. Each time he comes closer to solving the mystery, but it is the twist at the end that will leave audiences to discuss Incarnation long after the film closes.

The first thing that you will notice is the sparse dialogue. The phrase “speak only to improve the silence” is almost a guiding principle here, with Kovacevic preferring to let the heightened emotions and frequent chase scenes lead the narrative. The curious case of the young man’s memory loss unfolds with the audience being as aware or in the dark as the character. At no point do they receive clues to put them “ahead of the game”, though I would be lying if I said I did not spend a fair amount of time seeing if I could solve it before the man himself did. The story stays enticing even when the details in the beginning are few. Oddly enough, this makes his deaths become frustrating not because of affection for the character as much as the viewer’s perverse focus on finding his truth.

The payoff of this engagement is a twist that I did not see coming in the least, and I found myself immediately wanting to discuss the partially unsolved mysteries left on the table. This is the hallmark of a good thriller; the rolling of the credits immediately spurs more theorizing and debate once you leave the cinema. I appreciated that not all questions were answered completely, asking us as viewers to work out an answer that may change from person to person. To be wrapped up in a bow is a nice ending, but not necessarily one as engaging as what Kovacevic has crafted.

Besides being a treat to exercise the mind, the film is also visually striking, with a rich and vibrant palette for the bustling city center and judicious use of multi-toned grays, whites, and blacks for his journeys off the grid. This color scheme makes the bright red of the eventual blood spatter stand out even more starkly when the end of each “loop” occurs. The varying endings combined with the shot for shot symmetry in the beginnings is an interesting choice, as if you are watching several cuts of the same film in succession.

As he learns more clues, the loops become satisfyingly longer, and much more engaging. Given the several times he is resurrected, it is a technical wonder that this film, shot over three summers, maintains such amazing continuity in light of the significant challenges that multiple months off had to provide, as well as the use of a full scene reset rather than a montage. With each sudden awakening on the bench, the character must watch as life goes on in much the same way for everyone else, heightening the feeling of loneliness and dread.

The fact that there are so many discussion topics at play adds to the complexity of Incarnation. Larger themes to be addressed range from knowing thyself to the existential dread of being out of control while realizing that you are both the source and solution to your problem. There will undoubtedly be those who are unsure about how this film will settle with them.

But when the questions left are as good as the questions answered, it is worth watching and finding where you lie.


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