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A ball and a hammer: the collective and the individual in Golik’s film Blue 9

Krešo Golik’s Blue 9, shot in the production of Jadran film in 1950, was one of its kind in many aspects — it was the first comedy shot in communist Croatia, the first movie about sport, the first example of the orthodox Soviet »production epopee« in Croatian cinema, the first film with urban and peacetime thematic, the first true blockbuster of the communist cinematography. The film is analytically intriguing because, on one hand it demonstrates the (im)possibilities of the socialist-realist normative aesthetics in Croatian film, and on the other hand, because it uses narrative allegory to open a key question for Yugoslav society in the 1950s — the question of balance between the imperative of the official collectivist ideology and the hedonistic individualism of the consumer society. The author goes on to explain the reception of film by the media at the time of its premiere and some moments from the film’s production and its context, describing it as a socialist-realist film about production, and referring to the criticism of its socialist-realist and ideological colouring. Nevertheless, the action and the characters meet several criteria: the ideological one, featuring work and production goals, reflected in the schematization of the main characters, but also in its entertaining quality, represented by the character of a villain, the one that subverts the order, who does not obstruct the factory production but the football team, while his »bourgeois« and decadent cravings (car, profit, playing for his own promotion, and not the team) are presented with careful fetishism bursting with peeping Tom hunger for pleasures of the post war, communist society. On the declarative level, Golik’s film displays the relationship between collectivism and working ethics — apostrophised as something positive — and civic, hedonistic individualism — presented as a harmful, defective and a loser’s quality in both the historical and narrative sense. Nevertheless, although all analysts declare that on many occasions in Blue 9 Golik »winks« at the viewer suggesting the opposite of what he is declaring: he presents individualism and sinful pleasures as charming weaknesses, while he is unable to squeeze a single drop of humane recognizability out of collective chastity; however, having said that does not make this interpretation complete because the relationship between the individual and the collective, that is to say, between hedonism and chastity in Golik’s film is a bit more complex. The author of this text finds the metaphor for this in the conflict between the front and the last pages of newspapers, present in the scene crucial for understanding of these relations in film, where the important newa (political doctrine and working successes) are featured on the front page, and the less important (sport achievements) on the last. Front and last pages in film are confronted and reconciled, partly through the film’s generic duality (is this film a socialist realist ode to work or a romantic comedy about sport?), and partly through the crucial ideological dispute of the film, the one between individualism and collectivism. Later on, in the resolution of the film, what was done refutes what has been declaratively said, reversing the roles of front and last pages. In very much the same way, Blue 9 also characterises a discrepancy between what is said and the narrative action: the film declaratively favours the hammer, while the characters and Golik himself unquestionably favour the ball. The choice of the generic model also places the ball in front of the hammer, while back pages have precedence over the front pages; elements of the production epopee present in Blue 9 are gradually pushed out by the constituents of two clearly populist genres, romantic comedy and sport film. It is important to note that the ball’s precedence over the hammer in the film does not imply any obstruction of the legal order and subversion of the dominant ideology, rather it means that it has been approved by the party; football — a pastime for the masses — became in the full sense of the word a substitute for the party’s production task. Blue 9 is a film that presents bourgeois individualism, a desire to stand out, personal success and the resulting hedonism as something bad, but on another level the film also testifies how these same values became inherent in the ruling system. In this sense, Blue 9 is an ideal introduction into the 1950s communist Croatia-the decade in which Yugoslav communism realized that if it were to hold out, it had to incorporate consumer individualism into its ideological code. Those were the years when rationed supply was abolished, first self-service shop was opened, a whole series of entertainment magazines and comics were initiated, the first Pula film festival was held, as well as music festivals in Zagreb, Opatija, and Split, the production of Fiat 600 started, the first TV broadcast took place in Zagreb, Bajadera chocolate was designed (1954), and the first Yugoslav football player went to play for a foreign football club, with a special party permission. During this decade, the conflict from Blue 9 went from last pages to front pages of the newspapers and was resolved in the same way Golik resolved it in his film. The dramatic query of Blue 9 — the polarity of the ball and the hammer, or in other words, the conflict between hedonistic individualism and collectivist chastity — became the allegory for two possible paths of development of the communist totalitarian project. The resolution introduced in Golik’s film came as an announcement of the course social development took in the years that followed this film.

Jurica Pavičić

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