Over the last couple of years, the pandemic has forced us to consider the impact of loneliness and to consider just how important others are in our lives. Whether it be the mundane interactions we have with strangers and acquaintances on a daily basis or the soulful connection that comes with true friendship, continued lockdowns and isolation have brought into sharp focus both the debilitating effects of loneliness and, by implication, the overriding value of being with others. 

In his 16th film to date, The Last Days of Loneliness (2021), Melbourne-based independent filmmaker Saidin Salkic honours the sheer beauty and force of friendship and human connection. Adhering to strict ideas of cinema and cinematic expression, Salkic’s films eschew conventional codes of filmic representation. They do not attempt to represent fictional worlds with fictional characters. Instead, they mostly feature himself and on the rare occasion when they feature others, these ‘characters’ play themselves: Sevdah, his daughter, in Waiting for Sevdah (2017) and John Flaus, his friend and soulmate, in Last Days of Loneliness. Not quite documentary but clear examples of auto-fiction, Salkic’s films are intricately structured, intense meditations on states of being, emotional experience and human existence. He utilises an exactingly precise, at times playful, control over the medium, allowing him to communicate his thoughts, ideas and feelings in a highly visual, poetic way.      

The Last Days of Loneliness is structured in a highly intentional way; with ‘chapters’ or sequences that each focus on a separate theme or idea; each one with differing levels of energy and formalism. At the very beginning of the film, we meet ‘the younger man’, played by Salkic himself, and soon after, ‘the older man’, played by Flaus. At this stage of the film, they are shown living alone and seemingly in isolation. This ‘chapter’ of loneliness gives way to a lively phone conversation between Salkic and Flaus, in which they arrange a get-together. Following on, the next ‘chapter’ is a frenzied sequence of heightened anticipation as Salkic drives to the country to meet Flaus and the imminent meeting inches closer and closer. Then, just prior to their physical reunion, as Salkic meanders the streets of Castlemaine toward Flaus’ abode, an intense horror-infused sequence swallows up the image and soundtrack. This rising fear eventually settles and gives way to the film’s narrative climax, the physical embrace of two soulmates. Despite being a glorious homage to the beauty and power of genuine friendship, the final moments of Last Days give way to a menacing mood, in which the characters are cloaked in the darkness of night. 

What follows is a studied appraisal of each of these different sequences or ‘movements’, as Salkic himself refers to them. 


Last Days opens with a long shot of Salkic standing in an open field at the back of suburbia. Dressed in black, he is a stark figure in sharp contrast to his environment. The frame’s composition emphasises notions of individualism and identity, more precisely, what the individual stands for and how they define themselves in relation to the world around them. Picking up this theme, Salkic declares to us in a hushed whisper a kind of personal testimony: “I must sit still. I must sit quietly and remember what I care for. Just love those around me. A sense of belonging to them. Sense of loving them and being loved by them.” His intentions are clear. Throughout this sequence, Salkic walks forward through the urban landscape; the simple act of walking is made symbolic and metaphoric. 

The Last Days of Loneliness

Sure, no-one wants to be lonely and it’s mostly shunned by society but the experience of loneliness can engender a productive period of introspection, a careful reflection of one’s purpose and existence. As Olivia Laing states in her book on the topic, the experience of loneliness can “drive one to consider some of the larger questions of what it is to be alive”1. In this sequence, Salkic shows us that loneliness is a time of deep introspection and clarification of the self’s values and purpose. The black and white imagery and melancholic trombone score underlines the heaviness of this moment. Solitude forces a re-examination of the self, and the best way to be in the world: 

“I must not frown even when … thinking about deep things. I must have those things rise to the surface of these eyes gently. As far as they can. But gently. Without too much disruption to my emotions. To my state of being. I am revolutionising in silence. I am the revolution. My own. I always must be my own revolution”.

Moments of quiet follow. Then there is a cut. A wide, open expanse of urban landscape appears. The camera slowly rises until it is beneath the clouds, moving towards the horizon, looking down on a busy grid of homes and roads, a network of private lives that exist without ever necessarily connecting. In contrast to this visual metaphor, Salkic confides in us his innermost thoughts on human connection: “Sometimes there is nothing that can satisfy one. Nothing but another human being (….) Confirmed alive by another pair of human eyes. (….) Even the little is enough for happiness.” But in a bittersweet twist (influenced by the loneliness of suburbia?), he confesses that “… sometimes even the little is impossible”. 

The Last Days of Loneliness

If life means something when we are acknowledged or witnessed by another then isolation must therefore be a kind of death? The sense of death is echoed in the lifeless, hollowed out streets that Salkic strides down. But, soon after, a certain lightness begins to emerge. Floating clouds drift by. Birds tweet softly.  A glistening full sun lights up the dense foliage of a nature-strip tree. Clumps of autumnal leaves are swept into the air. This poetic portrayal of everyday objects that confirms there is beauty in the world is a fitting introduction to the ‘older man’ who we next see sitting in a chair in an Australian-bush; sitting under the same high sun, contemplating life. The camera holds still, capturing his thoughtful visage. He gets up, walks back to his abode. We hear the ticking of time. We see clocks in close-up. Time is passing. Flaus is sitting inside, holding the phone. The moment of unification is imminent. 

Connected But Apart 

What follows is a nine-minute phone conversation that is truly disarming and mesmerising in its portrayal of a very specific kind of friendship. It is definitely the kind that entails a deep connection, but that in itself does not capture its unique magic. As the phone conversation highlights, it’s the kind of relationship or understanding between two people that is magical because the two friends’ simple act of conversation is so open and honest that it gives birth to a myriad of ideas, thoughts and images as their talking ensues. 

The Last Days of Loneliness

Throughout the conversation, the camera alternates between Salkic and Flaus speaking to each other from their respective homes. During filming, cameras were used to record each person speaking and then Salkic edited the sequence in this cross-cutting fashion. Apart from one specific detail, it was barely scripted and for the most part improvised2. The final result is an unadulterated, genuine conversation between friends.  

Their conversation is multi-layered. It consists of incidental humour – both light and heavy; philosophical musing (“happiness is a journey not a destination”); playful curiosity (“what is your favourite lunch?”) and genuine affection (“I can’t wait to come and see you”). This nine-minute sequence contains such a gamut of soulful emotions that it could perfectly exist in isolation itself as a short film.  

The Approach 

An ode to Eisenstein montage, the “transition” sequence that bridges alienation and union uses cross-cutting to highlight a sinister sense of rising anticipation as the moment of union inches closer and closer. Various narrative threads are cross-cut to the dramatic sounds of a rapid orchestral score. They include Salkic concentrating intently as he drives down a freeway heading to his destination; Flaus, seemingly preparing himself for Salkic’s imminent arrival, which includes standing before a mirror, sizing himself up (suddenly seeing himself from another person’s point of view?). And finally, in a gesture that shows the camera is as much a window to the margins of consciousness as the ‘real’, the montage includes a series of exploding shells. 

The Last Days of Loneliness

As Dirk de Bruyn has noted, Salkic’s background is important in understanding his cinema. Salkic was born in Srebrenica, Bosnia, and only 12 years -old when the 1995 genocide of 8 000 Muslim men and boys took place. His father had earlier been killed and Salkic spared only as a result of his mother’s intervention. Understandably, these highly traumatic events would permanently alter and shape anyone’s psyche and their self-expression. As Bruyn puts it:

Incomplete trauma narratives have to find more primal means of expression that deliver the impressionistic fragments that remain embedded in the body’s sensual cluster. These memories are often unlocatable, but are brought to narrative through unrelenting, decades-long repetitions and nightmare3.

The recurring shells, “impressionistic fragments”, that sputter throughout this montage as Salkic and Flaus’ meeting gets closer and closer indicate that the filmmaker’s traumatic past is never far away and always complicates the present.  

The Final Moment of Uncertainty

An overwhelming sense of doom and foreboding builds in the final moments before Salkic and Flaus meet face to face. In addition to images of destruction such as the shells mentioned above, horror motifs occur frequently in Salkic’s cinema. It’s as though life for him is an extremely unnerving prospect – you never know what lies behind the door, beyond the darkness. All we can do is hold our breath in anticipation. Even in a film about the sweetness of friendship and the end of solitude such as Last Days, horror motifs emerge with full force. 

The Last Days of Loneliness

Once Salkic has arrived and begins walking toward Flaus’ residence, a menacing mood fills the image and soundtrack. We see and hear cawing crows, explosions, cathedral bells and ticking clocks – all of which are repeated with building intensity. The march of time brings with it an interminable sense of doom. An extreme close-up of Flaus’ eye; a blast; Salkic in long shot making his final approach; a massive explosion that fills the image and sound track. What might this sequence be suggesting? Could it be an overwhelming sense of fear and uncertainty felt by ‘the younger man’? Will his dear friend be there, waiting, or not? Will their union, up until now a mirage, a deeply-longed-for wish, eventuate in reality?

A Spiritual Euphoria

Master of mood, Salkic switches gear within seconds. The moment of release has arrived. Similar to his other films, Last Days is structured around a build-up of tension followed by release. In this case, the quietness of alienation and the rising tension ahead of a scheduled meeting gives way to unbridled relief – a glorious, overwhelming and expansive sequence of joy and euphoria. 

The Last Days of Loneliness

The moment in which Salkic and Flaus come face to face is conveyed via a series of simple, concrete acts: Salkic approaches the door then knocks; Flaus opens it wide; the two embrace. The meeting – a gesture of euphoria – is abstracted as the encounter is played and then re-played from different angles, in slow-motion, over a ten-minute period. These images – repeated, replayed, re-examined – make us stop. They speak a truth. The truth of the true friendship and human connection. A gorgeous, melodious piano score fills the soundtrack throughout this ‘movement’ of pure love, and continues as the sequence moves to a new location. An idyllic park setting followed by a long shot of Salkic and Flaus sitting at a park bench, eating fish and chips, chatting away with delight, in the park. Happy days. 

Final Moments of Darkness 

But not for long. As night approaches, darkness ensues. A sense of impending doom arises. The screen fades to black. The film is over. 

Salkic’s cinema does not shy away from exploring what it means to be alive, whether it’s a moment-by-moment experience of terror and fear (Silence’s Crescendo [2018]) or drawn-out anticipation that leads to pure joy (Waiting for Sevdah). In this film, The Last Days of Loneliness, he examines the impact of solitude and the force and power of friendship. He shows how a connection between two people can change the very fabric of existence, bringing beauty to a dark, troubled soul. 

The Last Days of Loneliness


  1. Olivia Laing, The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone (Edinburgh: Canongate, 2016), p. 5
  2. Saidin in an interview on “Showreel”, 3CR, Thursday 9 September 2021
  3. Dirk de Bruyn, “     The Dissolution of Self”, Senses of Cinema, Issue 99, July 2021

About The Author

Fiona Villella is an editor of Senses of Cinema.

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