PORTRAIT OF AN AUTHOR: ANTE BABAJA
Lost Beauty: The Films of Ante Babaja
The key period in Ante Babaja’s film life
happened in France, where he was an assistant to Becker,
Christian-Jaque and Ciampi. The picturesque, eloquent spirit
of his early short works reflects Babaja’s enthusiasm with
film, and it places him shoulder to shoulder with his European
contemporaries. After his return to Zagreb, Babaja, not
inclined to direct confrontation with the political structures
of the time, opted to portray the actual fates of people.
This proved to be a much stronger critical argument than
direct criticism. Social and cultural, instead of political,
Babaja’s criticism penetrated much deeper and proved itself
to be far more lasting than any type of political confrontation.
In his film The Emperors New Cloths, all he had to
do was transfer an everyday story to the realm of Anderson’s
fairytale in order to achieve the full freedom to dissect
society from the inside. In Birch Tree, the village
is a grandiose, rich and emerald landscape in the late fall.
It is full of inhospitable mud, and, in its most extreme
instance, can be experienced as a rotting corpse. Smells,
Gold and Thyme, shot in black and white, is the story
of a bleak and deserted Adriatic island during the winter,
which dreams about its former glory and which does not have
a future to believe in. Lost Homeland is a far reaching
elegy to some of the more turbulent decades of Croatian history,
the search for connections between generations, between different
regimes, and the quest for a means for history to condemn
and exonerate an individual. On a different note, The
Stone Gates casts away every reality based on outward
geography, replacing it with a city seen as a nonlinear,
almost musical landscape.
Vladimir C. Sever