Siniša Mesjak (Frano Mašković) is a slick politician whose mentor, the nation’s prime minister, is preparing him to be deputy prime minister. Full of himself, he celebrates by going to bed with the party secretary. But the next thing he knows, he is awakening from a coma after a hard night of drugs, alcohol and partying with prostitutes, an experience well-documented by photos in the tabloids. Such a blunder could end a politico’s career, but the prime minister needs him. So Siniša is, instead, sent into political exile to Trećić, a (fictional) island so remote that one has to travel four hours by boat just to reach a place with mobile phone and internet reception.
Siniša’s task is to get the islanders to create two political parties and hold an election. This sounds easy, but it’s something the seven previous commissioners have failed to accomplish. His local assistant is Tonino (Borko Perić), an innocent and well-meaning young man who is subject to occasional seizures during which he freezes and stares ahead, oblivious to all around him.
Siniša is smug and condescending, viewing the local inhabitants as yokels. However, he gradually comes to realize that they are not as isolated as they appear to be. Indeed, they engage in active importing and exporting (aka: smuggling) with Italy. There are also other outsiders on the island, including a Bosnian director of pornographic films, who lives with a Ukrainian woman he saved from sex trafficking. And then there’s the aboriginal ghost who continues to help people with medical advice.
Yes, there’s a lot going on in The Eighth Commissioner, but, even at 139 minutes, it’s not too much. Although it was shot on beautiful island locales, early in the film the cinematography is muted. As Siniša begins to feel comfortable with the locals, the colors brighten.
The Eighth Commissioner is based on a popular novel by Renato Baretić. Writer and director Ivan Salaj assured me that Baretić was pleased with all the changes he made from the original story, a great relief for any filmmaker adapting a novelist’s work.