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Zoran Tadić’s film oeuvre

Zoran Tadić’s film oeuvre stretches over three decades, from his debut collage-film Hitch... Hitch... Hitchcock (1969) to his, so far, last piece, a 1985 series that was edited into a film Don’t Give Up, Floki (2000), and short portraits of great Croatian actors Fabijan Šovagović and Ivica Vidović, filmed in 2000s. Tadić’s work can be clearly divided on the 1970s period, when he was shooting only documentary films, the eighties when he was shooting motion pictures, and the 1990s and 2000s period when he only occasionally worked on film, having mainly turned to writing about film and lecturing at the ADU. It is less known that during late 1970s and early 1980s he worked on television — and among other things, shot two television movies and two episodes of the TV series Undefeated City.

First part of the essay deals with the debut collage-film Hitch... Hitch... Hitchcock (1969) — which was Tadić’s auto-poetical announcement of his future motion picture works, and which has also defined »Hitchcockian« (hičkokovci) film critics’ generation — and prominent early documentary films. In the sequence of nine titles one discerns the obvious division on urban and rural that reflects itself in both the content and approach to the material. The American Woman (1970), Suggested for Realization (1978), and Kašinska Street 6 (1981) present an indented structure marked with super interpretation of documentary; moreover, the first two directly imply possible problems of documentarism — in The American Woman the director himself comments directly into the camera on the impossibility of finding an interesting subject, while in Suggested for Realization space off-screen intervenes in the shot, turning this film into a metafilmic essay about documentarism; similar intervention occurred in Kašinska Street 6, the film that advocates Tadić’s frequent motif, the disappearance of original tradition, visualized by the scene of a family house being torn down to make room for alienated, modern buildings. Rural films, on the other hand, deal with documentarism — since the material was extensively investigated it does not need a director’s intervention, only his presence — these films present the essence of documentary. Tales of Ivica Štefanec, the mill man (1974) was the only film from the series that was not shot in Dalmatian Zagora, although it also deals with lost tradition confronting filmed present with retold »better« past. Mailman from the karstic area (1971) uses off-screen narration by the protagonist so as to create the context of totally isolated Dalmatian hinterland. Already the title of the documentary The Village Party (1975) implies the confrontation of contemporary and traditional, urban and rural, while Plaids (1974) featuring the protagonist making plaids indicates surpassing of the given context by means of an activity which has acquired aesthetic and metaphysical features. Earth (1976) deals with an attempt of farming on karstic land, featuring an extremely dynamic director’s approach. Expressiveness in the display of existential loneliness characterizes Girl-friends (1972), the work that presents the peak of Tadić’s documentary opus, and stretches the presentation of rigorous karstic land to its limits, focusing on the interior and the protagonist’s wrinkled face. Excluding almost all off-screen procedures in his rural sequence, Tadić reduces his protagonists to a primary relationship with the landscape, revealing the socially critical context of films whose primordiality takes them up to mythical levels.

Second part of the essay is dedicated to Tadić’s television motion picture opus. Television drama The Liberans (1979) remains in Tadić’s recognizable rural circle, as a thematic extension of The Village Party featuring the conflict between the father and son, the traditional and new in the context of son’s arrival from Germany at the time of the village party. The Case of Filip Franjić(1978) deals with the confrontation of private and public, social and individual gain in current political problem context. Tadić’s two episodes shot as part of the mega-series Undefeated city, although marked as craftsmanship, demonstrate his recognizable directorial approach. In its presentation of partisan diversions, episode 72-96 follows generic patterns of thrillers, while Man in the Shadow pursues principles of psychological drama, dealing with forgery of documents in an occupied city. Both episodes, however, insist on realism, displaying different directing procedures pertaining to their respective genres.

Third part of the essay deals with Tadić’s motion picture opus. Tadić’s motion picture debut The Rhythm of Crime remains his most significant accomplishment, which started a sequel of his generic cinema films and opened the door to generic film in Croatian cinema of the 1980s. All these films (The Third Key, The Dream of the Rump, The Condemned) are embedded in the social context of Croatia and Yugoslavia of the 1980s, showing the humiliation of the individual under social, political and economic forces. The Man Who Loved Funerals and The Eagle shot in the late 1980s and early 1990s describes the ripping of social values and the political system through characters whose political past is catching up with them. Tadić’s pessimistic portrayal of marginalized individuals indicates that there is something wrong with the society, something that replicates itself in inner moods and private relationships, which are also falling apart under the influence of changes in the society. Every film presents either an individual inner insecurity, or the splitting of a family, friendship, or some marital or lovers’ communion. When trying to establish features common to all Tadić’s motion pictures, our first choice is the theme of destiny, i.e. its inevitability; accompanied by the issues of justice and implementation of justice which is in discord with relevant institutions of law. The Rhythm of Crime presents crime as a metaphor for social system, The Third Key features destiny as an inevitable, defeatist fact, The Dream of the Rump indicates the inevitability of crime, The Condemned leads us through back streets of vengeance that marks all those caught in it, The Man Who Loved Funerals presents revenge as an attempt at changing one’s destiny, The Eagle shows us how destiny deals with collective revenge and taking justice into our own hands, while The Third Woman — a remake of Reed’s The Third Man with a change of protagonists’ sexes — gives an insight in the loss of trust and justice in private and public sector in the context of war. All these films are clearly defined as crime films with various degrees of influence of: film noir (The Dream of the Rump, The Eagle), thriller (The Rhythm of Crime, The Condemned, The Man Who Loved Funerals), horror (The Third Key), fantastic fiction (The Rhythm of Crime, The Third Key), western (The Condemned), melodrama (The Man Who Loved Funerals), in a clearly formed political and social context.

Tomislav Čegir

Tadić on Tadić: an interview with Zoran Tadić
My six films with Tadić
Zoran Tadić’s filmography

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