“Souvenir”, directed by Natasa Prosenc, is a drama set in the world of fine art. It contains elements of various genres, including mystery, thriller, and romance, but is ultimately never able to effectively blend them into a cogent whole.
The film follows Ivy, a young gallery owner, who has just inherited a number of very valuable African funerary posts from her recently deceased father. As Ivy begins to slowly (and I do mean slowly) uncover the secret behind the posts, her art world colleagues become ever more greedy in their attempts to possess the priceless pieces, leading to what, in most cases, would constitute a thrilling finale. Unfortunately for “Souvenir”, those thrills never fully materialize, leaving the viewer in a limbo world that exists somewhere between art-house pretension and low-budget bungling.
This is not to say that “Souvenir” is a bad film, because it’s not. Prosenc does a fine job in the director’s chair and obviously has a command of the film’s visual elements and tone. The cinematography is definitely unique; some segments appear to be shot with a hidden camera while others appear lush and saturated. The film’s shortcomings, though, may be traced back to the script. Attempts are made to wrangle two weighty topics (stolen art and war crimes) that, taken separately, would be a handful, but when dealt with simultaneously seem to overwhelm the characters and quickly put them our of their depth, creating a situation where plot subsumes characterization and throws the whole picture out of balance.
Though it might not appeal to a general audience, “Souvenir” definitely contains small pleasures for those more in tune with the inner machinations of the art world and the types of people that populate its darker corners.