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BRANKO BAUER (1921-2002)

Branko Bauer — A Carrier on the Turn of Stylistic Periods

Late Branko Bauer is thought of as the most important classical narrative director in Croatia, and generally the most important Croatian director. However, this assessment has undergone some strange changes. During the 50s’ and the beginning of the 60s’, he was considered the most eminent filmmaker, an exquisite craftsman and impressive artist. Once the modernist current overtook (’auteur film’), he was soon written off as the representative of the outdated narrative style and a director of ’state’ films. He was no longer directing films. It was only in the early eighties, with the arrival of younger critics and a change in attitude towards classical narrative film, that Bauer was re-evaluated, an extensive monograph was published, and he reclaimed the title of historically most important Croatian filmmaker. Nevertheless, while still in creative power, he did not got another chance at feature film production in eighties, nor in nineties. The essay looks at the beginning of his career and follows its development, considering the causes for the change.

Bauer started his career as a mature man (at the age of 29). At that time feature film production in Croatia was almost nonexistent. In order to ’recreate’ narrative standards used in western and eastern films on the cinema repertoire, beginners like Bauer had to think of their own production procedures using their imagination. Bauer turned out to be quite resourceful; he was a born storyteller and a quick thinker who by himself re-invented subtle methods of visual narration. Highly confident, he set about trying at different genres (children’s adventure film, melodrama, war drama, naturalist social-psychological drama, comedy), and he produced several anthological works (Don’t Turn Around, Son, Three Anas, Face to Face). However, in the mid-sixties, the ideology of the ’auteur theory’ prevailed on the Croatian critical and production scene, so Bauer tried to adapt himself to it — thinking that ’almost anything’ could be labeled as modernism, and that the main characteristics of modernism were visual attentiveness and dealing with psychological complexities (meditativeness). His two feature films made in mid-sixties were not successful with the critics, or with the viewers, nor were they ever considered ’really modernist’.

Consequently, Bauer invested his professional knowledge in the making of TV shows, working on documentaries and short feature sketches. He also worked as program editor, polishing the works of his colleagues. He returned to directing TV series, proving that classical narration was his basic creative area and that he has not lost any of his mature creative skills. He turned two series into three films, released in theaters. That, however, did not help him regain his previous status: he was still not being granted further feature films. Unfortunately, even after the group of younger critics working in the magazine Film had rediscovered him and singled him out as the strongest creator of Croatian film, he still was not able to work in his field of expertise. Bauer’s funeral attended only his older colleagues.

Even the representatives of the government, usually keen on attending the funerals of esteemed artists, did not come to his funeral. Nevertheless, it is certain that Bauer’s work will offer an abundance of stimuli for the future analytical approaches, while the retrospectives of his films will repeatedly prove their impressive strength.

Hrvoje Turković

Sixth Reel, The End — In the Memory of Branko Bauer

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