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Croatian Film Premieres

A review of three films to have had premieres in the last three months of 1998. J. Sedlar’s Agony, The Three Men of Melita Žgajner by S. Tribuson and M. Juran’s Translatlantic.

Jakov Sedlar, a filmmaker inclined toward experimentation and (often provocative) pioneering ventures (Have You Been to Zagreb, Mister Lumiere? In the Middle of My Days, Croatian Sacral Art, Gospa, Fergismajniht), has filmed (with the scriptwriting help of Georgij Paro) an adaptation of Krleža’s Ibsen-Strinbergesque drama In Agony. By preserving the original text, Sedlar, in his adaptation, focuses mostly on those characters and events with which he could satisfy his urge for provacativeness, with an emphasis being put on two questionable Russian noblewomen marked by decadent hedonism (Nives Ivanković, Zoja Odak).

The attractiveness and suggestiveness of the drama’s text, undiluted by Sedlar and Paro’s additions, good actors (Božidar Alić in the role of down and out nobleman with autodestructive urges, Ena Begović in the lead female role and first-time Krleža interpreter Sven Medvešek), and correct, functional direction make Agony a respectable addition to this year’s Croatian film production.

The Three Men of Melita Žganjer.
Snježana Tribuson (author of the TV genre films Mor, The Dead Point, and Recognition), the writer and director of the film The Three Men of Melita Žgajner, has shown herself to be an interesting and inventive filmmaker. This, above all, refers to the film’s composition and it’s narrative complexity, as well as to its use of a Latino-American television soap opera which the filmmaker, in the form of a film within the film, utilizes as an integral factor that, at the same time, enriches the structure and serves to achieve moments of high comedy in the film.

The film’s shortcomings can be found in its slow and lethargic rhythm, and in its uneven design. There was also a surprisingly weak performance by actor Ivo Gregurević (flawed performances were also given by Mirjana Rogina and Sanja Vejnović), but good roles were created by Suzana Nikolić, Ljubomir Kerekeš, Filip Šovagović, Ena Begović and especially Goran Navojec.
The Three Men of Melita Žganjer is a strong film, and it is evident that Snježana Tribuson is on the right film path that could lead to some very praiseworthy results.

Mladen Juran has conceived his debut film about the phenomenon of Croats emigrating to the United States on the eve of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles as a poetic epic with an emphasized ethnographic note interwoven with a genre-based political background. The first part of the film which takes place in Dalmatia, is fairly consistently played out in a poetic or lyrical key by Juran. He has shown himself equal to the task, with the very proficient cinematographic assistance of Goran Trbuljak, of using some basic lyrical-poetic or poetic-realist techniques to, above all, create short and abruptly edited scenes that are distinguished by the impression of a peculiar poetic subtlety. However, the translocation of the story to American soil completely changes the stylistic expression of the film.

The stylistic contrast between the first and second parts of the film seems awkward, even if the atmosphere of the American urban past isn’t, in itself, devoid of a certain amateurish charm. Through a series of characters and storylines, or rather fragments, with which he fills the second part of the film, Juran was not able to carry, i. e., he greatly complicated his job by reducing the duration of the film.
In conclusion we can assert that Transatlantic is a multifarious amalgamation of the epic-lyrical both in content and form, and that its author sometimes shows a certain dose of creativity, but he loses himself too often in heavy-handedness (narrative organization) and dilettantism (ethnographic digressions, the use of leitmotivs).

Damir Radić

A Rotterdam Journal

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