Directed by: Ivan Ostrochovsky | 75 minutes | drama | Actors: Peter Baláz, Nikola Bongilajová, Stanislava Bongilajová, Ján Franek, Alexandra Palatinusová, Tatiana Piussi, Manfred Schmid, Zayne Richard Simpson
Films about boxing or related martial arts often follow a certain pattern. The subgenre has been around almost as long as the medium itself; for example, one of Hitchcock’s first silent films was ‘The Ring’ (1927), in which two boxers literally attacked each other for the love of a woman. It is not surprising that boxing and film form a happy marriage: it is a world that appeals to the imagination, in which drama and tension go hand and hand. In ‘Koza’ (‘Goat’) (2015) the emphasis is mainly on the tragic side and there is no predictable story flow anywhere.
Koza – already called that as a child because his grandmother always gave him goat milk – once boxed himself for a gold medal during the Olympic Games in 1996. But as is the case with top athletes, the valley is deeper than for ‘ordinary’ people. Without money, with a shit job at an old hardware store, a girlfriend and child, and an unwanted second on the way, he is forced to go on the battlefield one more time. An abortion – which his girlfriend Miša insists on – costs 400 euros. The fights Koza is willing to sign up for would earn him tenfold. But he cannot do without the (financial) help of his boss Zvonko and he wants 75% of the proceeds, for expenses such as petrol and the like. Not exactly a deal to make you happy, but Koza is so desperate that he doesn’t hesitate for a moment.
For the rest of the film we follow Zvonko and Koza as they travel from city to city, match to match. The dialogues are sparse, the surroundings depressing and the relationship between the two men can be described as cool to say the least, although later in the film Zvonko does show that he is committed to Koza’s fate – and not purely out of it. own sake. It is obvious that Koza is not doing well physically, but unlike in ‘Homeboy’ (1988), for example, the manager does not withhold any medical data.
‘Koza’ is therefore certainly not your average boxing film and is therefore not typically a film that you can only watch if you like that sport. No spectacular images here of right or left hooks and men clapping double in pain. It is much more about the character of Koza, which we only gradually get to know because of the chosen visual style. The fact that we don’t get very emotionally involved with this almost self-playing boxer (former Olympic boxer Peter Baláz’s life has quite a few similarities with Koza’s) is, however, a conscious choice of the director. The viewer has enough room for reflection and interpretation and ‘Koza’ therefore feels more like a documentary than a feature film. But the beautiful camera work betrays that it is a feature film after all. The short playing time is a plus, but every second of those 75 minutes is impressive. Curious what else the Slovak director Ivan Ostrochovský has in store for us.