The King: Film Review

The King Still - H 2012

The King Still - H 2012

This slice-of-life documentary about one-legged Croatian shot-putter Darko Kralj is an inspiring portrait in courage.

Dejan Acimovic's documentary profiles a courageous, one-legged Croatian shot-putter.

Few true-life stories are as inspiring as that of Darko Kralj, the subject of Dejan Acimovic’s new documentary The King. A forty-year-old Croatian shot-putter who excels in his sport despite having lost a leg in 1991 during the Croatian War of Independence, this large-bodied athlete displays an indomitable spirit that is hard to resist.

The slice-of-life film profiles the now 40-year-old Kralj, who nearly lost his life as a result of his injuries. But after being fitted with a prosthetic leg below the knee, he went on to compete in numerous Paralympic competitions, at one point not only setting a new world’s record but then immediately surpassing it five times in a row.

Harrowing archival footage depicts the medical treatment of Kralj’s wounds, as well as the fitting of his artificial limb and the extensive physical therapy he underwent afterwards. But the bulk of the film’s running time is occupied with his present-day life. Happily remarried to a woman who lost her first husband in the same conflict, he’s now the devoted father of three sons who spends much of his time hunting and fishing.

There are a few too many scenes depicting these leisure-time activities, as well as a lengthy interlude featuring him making homemade sausage with his extended family. Like so many docs these days, The King feels attenuated at feature length. But Kralj is such an engaging, charismatic subject that it’s easy to forgive the film’s indulgences. The sight of him contentedly swimming at a watering hole with his friends is enough to rob even the most morose viewers of the slightest trace of self-pity.

Opens: Nov. 23 (DA Film)
Director/producer: Dejan Acimovic
Executive producer: Tatjana Acimovic
Director of photography: Dario Hacek
Editor: Vladimir Gojun
Composer: Livio Morosin
Not rated, 75 min.