The Third Key

The Third Key (Treći ključ) is a 1983 Croatian film directed by Zoran Tadić, starring Božidar Alić and Vedrana Međimorec. A Kafkian horror film, indirectly touching on the topic of corruption, in showing the alienation and soullessness of modern agglomerations it resembles somewhat the film Someone's Watching Me! by John Carpenter.[3]

The Third Key
CroatianTreći ključ
Directed byZoran Tadić
Screenplay byPavao Pavličić
Music byAleksandar Bubanović
CinematographyGoran Trbuljak
Edited byVišnja Štefić
Release date
  • 28 March 1983 (1983-03-28) (Yugoslavia)[1]
Running time
88 minutes[2]


Dunja (Vedrana Međimorec) and Zvonko (Božidar Alić) are a young married couple who are moving into a newly built apartment in Novi Zagreb. Their relationship is burdened by a number of personal issues, such as Dunja being older than Zvonko and having other lovers before him, and Zvonko being prone to alcohol abuse. As Dunja is unemployed and Zvonko has old gambling debts, they are chronically struggling for money and their trust in each other seems to have been eroded. Although it transpires that the apartment was not acquired in an entirely legal way, the two are hopeful about a new start.

After moving in, Dunja and Zvonko soon begin noticing suspicious strangers in the vicinity, and mysterious envelopes with substantial amounts of cash start to appear in their mailbox. Since the envelopes are addressed to them, they decide to spend the money, although they are unable to identify the sender. Soon after that, they discover signs of an apparent intrusion, as if someone has the third key – the one they were supposed to receive with the apartment but never did – and is using it to enter their home while they're away.

The couple are unsettled over the events and are struggling to explain them, eventually asking friends and then the police for help, but to no avail. Dunja is convinced from the outset that there must be a connection between the intrusions and the money, while Zvonko is dismissive towards that idea, lulled by the unexpected financial gain.

Over time, the couple's relationship becomes increasingly strained by uncertainty and fear, leading to mutual accusations and verbal fights. They leave the apartment for a motel, only to receive the same envelope at the reception. Finally, they swap the apartment with a friend, but the envelopes keep arriving at their new address...[2][4]

Background and productionEdit

Božidar Alić got the role of Zvonko after Tadić noticed him in "72–96", an episode of drama TV series Nepokoreni grad [hr] directed by Tadić in 1981.[5]

The role of Dunja was initially meant for Božidarka Frajt, but went in the end to then little-known Vedrana Međimorec because Frajt either waited too long with her acceptance or – according to another source – cancelled at the last moment.[5][6]

The production of The Third Key was twice as expensive as that of Tadić's debut, Rhythm of a Crime, but was still very modest.[4] Standard 16 mm color film was used, later transferred to 35 mm.[1] Two thirds of the footage were shot in the same indoor location, with very simple sets. Most scenes feature only the two main protagonists, and episodic roles were played by director's friends. Apart from the opening and closing credits, there is no music in the film.[4]

Alić's behavior during the shooting made Tadić vow never to work with him again. Apparently, as soon as Alić sensed his partner did well, he deliberately fumbled his lines so as to ruin the shot. This ultimately cost him the lead role in Love Letters with Intent (1985), as Zvonimir Berković – upon hearing from the crew of The Third Key that Alić was impossible to work with – passed him over in favor of Zlatko Vitez.[5][6]

Reception and legacyEdit

While The Third Key is generally considered to fall short of the high standard set by Rhythm of a Crime, it is nevertheless deemed interesting for its genre approach and topic which were novel in Croatian and Yugoslav cinema of the era.[1]

Croatian film critic Jurica Pavičić named The Third Key his personal favorite among five films shot by Tadić in the 1980s after his debut.[3]

In 2007, Croatian film critic Nenad Polimac listed The Third Key in his selection of "lost classics" of Croatian cinema.[7]


  1. ^ a b c "Treći ključ". Baza HR kinematografije (in Croatian). Croatian Film Association. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  2. ^ a b Marković, D. "Treći ključ". Filmski leksikon (in Croatian). Miroslav Krleža Institute of Lexicography. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  3. ^ a b Pavičić, Jurica (9 September 2007). "Umro filmski i TV redatelj Zoran Tadić". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Šišmanović, Ljiljana (2007). "Žanrovsko u izabranim trilerima iz autorskog opusa Zorana Tadića". Zapis (in Croatian). Croatian Film Association (58). Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  5. ^ a b c Polimac, Nenad (14 February 2015). "Karijera uništena ekscesima: Božidar Alić – vječni provokator koji je zaboravio da je veliki glumac". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  6. ^ a b Homovec, Boris (29 June 2016). "Kako je Božo Alić, nekad apsolutno briljantni glumac, postao najtužnija pojava na hrvatskoj javnoj sceni". Telegram (in Croatian). Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  7. ^ Polimac, Nenad (6 March 2007). "Loša sudbina izuzetnih ostvarenja". (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 18 November 2015. Retrieved 4 July 2018.

External linksEdit