|Gangster of Love|
The ‘Gangster’ in the title is Nedeljko Babic who is well-known and the most successful matchmaker in Croatia, boasting 290 arranged marriages. He considers himself resourceful, so the nickname does not apply to anything along the lines of being a criminal, as some may assume. Living in a small town called Imotski, sadly spawns small minds. The patriarchal society is full of bachelor men who are looking for wives, but for a majority, the emotional distance that they cannot move past, will ultimately keep them depressed, single and alone.
Slijepcevic’s documentary follows Gangster in his attempt to find a match for Maya, a 33 year-old Bulgarian woman. Being a domestic violence survivor, she’s looking for a man who above all, possesses honesty. The biggest problem for any potential suitor though is her young son. As Gangster tries to match her with countless Croatian men, it’s also a challenge because they only seem to want Croatian women, not foreigners. No matter how hard Gangster tries to show these men how foolish they are, convincing them that it is all about L-O-V-E, not race or religion still goes in one ear and out the other. After many failed attempts at first meetings, Maya’s hope seems to dwindle and the sad reality of being alone really sets in. Not fazed by all the rejections, Gangster thinks he has hit the lottery for Maya. He introduces her to Marin, a handsome, family-oriented and hard-working man who is also a client and searching for Mrs. Right. So Maya seems like the perfect choice for Marin, but the real question remains: Is he ideal for Maya?
The film definitely gives you a lot to think about, especially in terms of relationships, our own self perceptions and the encompassing idea of love. Gangster is bold and unapologetic and the director includes a lot of thoughtful dialogue from him. The melancholy feel of the overall film though never seemed to let up, even with the fleeting comedic moments. I had the impression that I would be watching more of a comical portrayal of dating disasters and so this was definitely more of a dramatic undertaking of what many men and women face today when trying to find love.
In the end, the cowardly “it’s not you, it’s me” response seems to be universal and we must learn that even with the best intentions, sometimes a leopard cannot change its spots.