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And where is Eros?

10th days of croatian film

As one of the festival’s jurors and selectors, the author gives an intimate review of the 10th days of Croatian film held in Zagreb, from March 8-11, 2001. Working on the programme of the Days, the selectors were faced with a huge number of works that comprised a wide choice of almost everything: motion pictures, documentaries, animated and experimental films, TV shows and films for designated purpose of rather uneven quality and different styles, for which reason the author compares Croatian short and middle features with a multiheaded beast that has lived on an unhealthy diet for a very long time and has grown into one of those prehistorical creatures with a head of a beauty, belly of a hippopotamus and paws of a hamster.

However, in this sea of variety, the selectors have made an effort to choose the most representative works and have selected films that were interesting to the public so that the festival has almost become a live organism and started to peal off its old skin; instead of being an event you attend because there is nothing else to do, it turned into a festival you attend for pleasure.

Among the motion pictures, the author singles out Black Chronicle or The Women’s Day directed by Snježana Tribuson. This is a film that every festival programme maker would love to screen in the festival’s prime time. Director Snježana Tribuson, pursuing the thematic of her previous film Melita Žganjer’s Three Men, tells a story, with much humour, of women turning 30 and going through a crisis of self-respect while attempting to find the ever-promised happiness in love. Using complex, non-linear interweaving of narrative currents, Snježana Tribuson has placed herself among a small number of domestic authors that successfully transfer some of stylistic preoccupations of the Anglo-American cinema into our specific Croatian surrounding.

Stanislav Tomić’s A Flop and Ivan Goran Vitez’s Massive Dying of the Seals share the same virtue: first film unpretentiously uses a well known western plot — a stranger with a dark secret comes to a small provincial town and changes it forever — puts it into an almost unreal, snowy milieu of Croatian province and spices it with some casual black humour. On the other hand, Vitez, in general seems to be a much craftier director, which is reflected in his use of cautious shot dissembling and archive music.

Furthermore, his skill is observable in the way he leads the actors and introduces bitter comments of everyday frustrations while setting some rather unpleasant moral dilemmas about the viewer’s interpretation. Life with Cockroaches by Suzana Ćurić was eagerly awaited as an ambitious pilot episode of a humoristic series, however, the viewers responded to it rather coldly mostly because of very thin characters and the absence of any real tension between them. Citizens by Luka Rocco and Nigredo by Zdravko Mustać rely on the avant-garde works from distant decades of the last century and so present more of a rarity than an expression of new trends; both are silent, distinctly grotesque, grateful samples for the arthouse public.

Mustać’s work is unquestionably more mature, complex and refined, but since Mustać is twice Rocco’s age, this might not be a virtue. Forever Mine by Ljubo J. Lasić, weaves a solid net of invitations to similar avant-garde outings to the area of the surreal and a more narrative form according to the motive known already from Kafka to Gilliam, which Lasić successfully turns into his own. Silence is a rather atypical work for Dalibor Matanić, whose recent film The Cashier Goes to the Sea achieved quite good commercial results. As yet another dry (without dialogue) short feature dealing with lives of two old people living in snowbound highlander backwoods, Matanić’s work, in comparison with the other two, possesses a certain documentary and artistic quality. The most wretched piece of work at the same time attracted the biggest attention.

Partly amateur work Bimba is a movie about the ’guilt’ of two young men who forced their friend into dementia after taking LSD. Despite all its flaws, this films deals with certain issues that do not often appear in Croatian films and presents them in the context of a serious dramatic situation. Finally, Forever Mine by Svebor Kranjac — a series of sketches in which the author gives an ironical view of the hopelessness of new generations — does not really reflect much filmic skill, but it does offer several pretty good jokes so that the first shortcoming did not bother anyone.

However, the main event of this year’s festival, which also stamped it in a special way, was the documentary The Boy Who Was in a Hurry by Biljana Čakić-Veselič. The work possesses an unquestionable strength that comes from the fact that the author has poured into this film all that was the most holy in her and without any sentimental regrets. This made it into one of the strongest films ever seen at the Days, and moreover, a key guideline for the renewal of Croatian film. The problematic of The Boy is ours and ours alone. The strength emanating from this film clearly shows that the issue of renewal of Croatian film is first and foremost the issue of gaining self-respect and respecting things that define us and make us what we are.

This is vividly represented by an enormous creative Eros — which the authors of other motion pictures were not able to find in fictional works — while the author of The Boy found it in a Thanatos-like confrontation with the death of her brother.

Vladimir C. Sever


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