BRANKO BAUER (1921-2002)
Sixth Reel, The End — In the Memory of Branko Bauer
This text is a personal associative
commentary on the late Branko Bauer and his opus. The author
underlines precision and emotion as the two key features
of Branko Bauer’s imagination. Precision, however, did
not refer to film planning and shooting script, but to
an organic and non-technical power of controlling film
narration. In his films, Bauer figured as the observer
who patiently waited for the moments when the story would
open for a climax. He perfectly handled the tasks of the
story executor, telling the story with tectonic sureness,
and providing us with easy watching. The core of his films
was emotionality based on a simple premise: love. It is
not meant passion, carnal desire, or even infatuation.
In Bauer’s films, love, and its extension — duty (presenting
a prolongation of love by other means), appear as a person’s
essence, a measure for human relationships, and an imperative
often preceding the story.
Bauer was developing those two features
while the country was governed by the post Stalinist party.
The party had a strong idea of what it did not want, but
had no idea of what it wanted. Bauer developed his gift
of precision and emotionality in a narrow passage between
party control and narrative banality of other directors,
much in the manner of a high-wire walker. Prohibitions
generate desire, while limitations perfect the skill and
produce new solutions.
The commemorative gathering at the small
cinema of the directors’ association was an occasion for
the screening of the sixth reel of his most famous film Don’t
Turn Around, Son.
Father and son are leving the town before dawn. Comes the
break of dawn: they cross the river, run into an ambush,
the fight, they say goodbye, the motorbike and death of
the father and attacker on the bike, the boy runs towards
the gloomy light on the other side of the woods. The camera
does not allow the character to leave the close-up, we
feel Hitchcockian tension.
But then again, the ellipsis
is expediently elaborated; the story develops with a Zinemmannian
fatality, constantly moving forward, into yet another trouble.
The sequence ends with a Fordian emotion. Pathos without
sentiment, almost cruelly short climax. Even the metaphorical
crewless motorbike was only a short digression, the last
picture in the eye of a dying man. Life has ended. Sava
wasteland has turned into a graphic, a barely visible background
with nothing but people on it. And the light of death.
Bauer, sensible, gentle and utterly firm man, has done
his job, said farewell and left. His world matured somewhere
in the cinematic fifties. The fifties as we would have
liked to remember them, built of our own wishes, or Bauer’s
imagination, powerfully imprinted on the film tape.