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Croatian film

Film in focus: Seventh chronicle

Heir to cinematic past perfect

In an essayistic review the author describes the present-day tendencies in Croatian feature film, and places the Bruno Gamulin’s new film Seventh Chronicle within the situation.

There is, in critic circles, a simplified picture of the present-day situation in Croatian feature film. The situation is conceived as a clash among the two contrasting tendencies: on the one hand there is a »state« cinema of »big issues« that satisfies the governing ideological needs (films by Kodar, Žižić, Schmidt, e. g.), and on the other there is a »young Croatian film« and the practice of postmodernist, ludic, unpretentious films with urban iconography, ideologically unassuming and open to the commercial genres. It is a simplification because among the young author there are some which do deal with »big issues« of ideological importance (e. g. Salaj, and older Žmegač, who takes the middle position), and the picture complicates the presence of a third line of noncommercial authors with the declarative art-films, that count on limited distribution and on festival presentations (e. g. Berković, Radić, Ruić). The last tendency has its roots in sixties, in the auteur movement, and it has kept its slow and somehow »sideward« pace up to now (e. g. films by art-film classics like Berković and Babaja). But, not having the happy combination of art exclusivity and market attractive topic as some American off-Hollywood films, Spanish, Hong-Kong and British films have, Croatian art films are felt to be out of context today, needed by nobody in particular, manifestly old-fashioned (with the successful exception of Berković, Countess Dora).

Seventh Chronicle by Bruno Gamulin belong to this last tendency, contributing to its survival. It is Gamulin’s third feature, and at the national film festival in Pula it was received as the best film — by »art impression«, in contrast with the successful populist Brešan’s comedy How the War Started on My Island. The film starts with the Ex-Yugoslav »Goulag«, the prison camp on the bare Island (Goli otok), then thematizes the escape of one prisoner, his hiding within the monastery, and lastly his voluntary return to the Island prison camp. The theme, politically hot within the ex-communist regime, is felt today as somehow »out of phase«. Similarly, his thematic focus and stylistic approach is felt as an outdated heir to the art-tradition. Gamulin is more interested in dualistic (Manichaean) metaphysical and theological issues, then in the more subtile psychology of his characters.

The film is filled with characters that embody general principles and general character-types, mostly expressing themselves in hightened rhetorical monologues. Gamulin is interested more in the general (metaphysical) situation then in its narrative course and event intricacies, more in the beautiful pictorial presentation of landscapes and corridors then in narratively suggestive portraying of the events. Gamulin’s film, luckily, does not belong to the low examples of art-film tradition, one does not feel embarrassed neither by its content nor by its looks, but it does belong to the past perfect tense of the Croatian cinema, lacking the subtlety required from the art-films today.

Jurica Pavičić

A correct and atractive film
BRUNO GAMULIN — a biography and filmography

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