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When the Dead Start to Sing by Krsto Papić

A critical look at Krsto Papić’s latest film When the Dead Start to Sing on the occasion of its Zagreb premiere.
In a screenwriting association with Mate Matišić, Papić adapted his theatrical play Cinko and Marinko into an action comedy with elements of character and situation based comedy as well as elements of black humor and absurdity with a political background thrown in for good measure. It is a little strange that an author in his 70’s whose whole film opus is made up of serious drama’s full of various, most often political and erotic tensions decided to try his hand at something which should be a playful comedy. When looking at Papić’s opus it is clear that he is a true author of so-called art films (in comparison to populist or genre films) and his self-appointment into the ranks of so-called genre films is a very bold move.

This is where the elementary problems plaguing When the Dead Start to Sing emerge. The first problem is that the direction is inadequate to the demands of the genre in the first half of the film and the second problem, again associated with genre, is the unsuitable dramatic-structuring of the unfolding events in the second half. It should also be added that the ending was not genre-based and the author let a good opportunity to round off his film on a higher creative note slip through his fingers.

Nevertheless, in this film, Papić has not abandoned his favorite motifs and his continuity as an author — deserted and rocky Dinarian localities and love which adopts tragic dimensions as a result of political actions. In this regard, the most interesting light motif of the film is a corpse who performs local Dinarian songs. This leitmotif is completely unnecessary in the film, but it is interesting because, in its modernistic tradition, it bears witness to how Papić, consciously or unconsciously in a populist context, remained true to his background as a maker of art films. Moreover, he should return to that background since his »artistic« film Handcuffs is the best film of his opus by far.

Damir Radić

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