Creative types often find angst as a source of creativity. They wallow in it, often wearing it as a badge of honor. At house parties, these types can be found huddling in the kitchen pontificating about life and how they were screwed out of making their passion project. The secret is that without angst these folks would have little to keep them going—the creative edge would be lost.
This is the subversive underbelly of “Meet Me in Montenegro,” Alex Holdridge’s follow-up feature to his wonderful 2007 movie “In Search of a Midnight Kiss.” This time, Holdridge co-writes and co-directs with his co-star Linnea Saasen. It’s Saasen’s first film in any capacity according to IMDB. And while Holdridge might decide to continue his career as the guy in the kitchen reveling in angst, Saasen is a fresh face that should find lots of work after “Meet Me in Montenegro” grabs its cool-kid audience.
Billed as a “comedy” “Meet Me in Montenegro” is an anxiety-filled romance as Woody Allen might have made it. Holdridge plays Anderson, a filmmaker who hasn’t made a film in years. While Holdridge might be playing a version of himself, he reminded me of a hybrid composite character with parts of director Shane Carruth (“Upstream Color”) mixed in. Anderson is at his wits’ end. The early award-winning promise of his career has flat-lined. His agent is trying to help him produce a big budget science fiction film based on Anderson’s script. But Anderson reveals that he’s only doing it for the money.
We learn very quickly that Anderson’s neurotic side was inflamed when he was jilted in Montenegro by a beautiful dancer name Lina (Linnea Saasen). Through smart use of treated images and flashback footage, we see Anderson’s romanticized remembrance of that fleeting romance most typified by a jump from a cliff into a large body of water. With Lina, Anderson’s angst seems to dissipate. But her abrupt exit from his life has left a gaping hole that has yet to be filled. And instead of inspirational, this form of longing has left him crippled.
But when his agent arranges a meeting with a big star in Berlin, Anderson takes off to the very city where he first met Lina. Inevitably, their paths will cross again, but will the romance rekindle?
“Meet Me in Montenegro” is a splendid indie entry well shot on the Canon DSLR. In-keeping with Holdridge’s early work, he re-teams with cinematographer Robert Murphy, who shot “In Search of a Midnight Kiss.” With a similar narrative structure, Murphy is able to deliver a similar visual scope but this time taking full advantage of the flexibility and the portability of the DSLR and its creative aperture choices. Years ago, I shot an interview with Holdridge and his “Midnight Kiss” stars and crew in New York and I remember the help I received in setting up and breaking down my equipment. The intimacy of the camera work here clearly shows that Holdridge and Murphy are in sync with one another.
Other cast choices work well, especially with Rupert Friend and Jennifer Ulrich as a couple in Berlin in the middle of some kind of relationship crisis. This parallel story contains some of the film’s most telling moments. And while I’m sure that Holdridge scripted the dialogue, the natural delivery of the heartfelt lines makes this relationship very real.
“Meet in Montenegro” will strike a chord with most anyone experiencing angst and those that feed off it. And at the next party you attend, check out the kitchen, because that’s where you’ll often find some uneasy but engrossing conversation.