Director's portrait: Petar Krelja
Documentarism as Ethical Choice (On Documentary Films by Petar Krelja)
The text analyzes the documentary
work by Petar Krelja which is incomparable with any other
in Croatian cinematography by its extent. Namely, in somewhat
more than 35 years Krelja has directed around 200 documentary
films and television broadcasts.
Well-known as a socially
engaged documentary director, he took special interest
in social margins (homeless people, lonely people, orphanage,
refugees), common people, but also in unusually talented
or enduring individuals, especially women and artists.
The text analyzes a few crucial Krelja’s documentary films
starting from his first film Bids under the Number (Ponude
pod broj). It is already clear from this film
that Krelja is attracted to individuals as eccentrics or
as victims of an imperfect society or their own nature.
From the films made in the 1970s we can single out those
dealing with social rituals: Recital, a work of
an unusual ironic and reflexive mode, and Splendid Isolation,
forbidden by the authorities of the time so Krelja had
to narrow down his focus and turn to individuals through
whose stories he could precisely depict a broader social
context. After Povratak (The Return), one
of the most powerful social documentaries in the Croatian
documentary film work in general, Krelja created a series
of films rich in atmosphere and sound synecdoche such as Njegovateljica (Caregiver)
and Prihvatna stanica (Asylum for Troubled Children).
The same as he was preoccupied with social rituals and
victims of a dysfunctional society/family at the beginning
of his career, Krelja started a new thematic cycle in his
mature documentary phase before trying out the feature
form. Krelja started a new thematic cycle, announced with Njegovateljica,
a series on common working-class people and their routine
everyday life. By the end of the 1980s he made several
films tackling this theme and among them we can single
out two films with a more complex structure Radni tjedan (Working
Week) and Treća smjena (The Third Shift).
Krelja’s documentary work is generally sensitive to different
painful human situations, especially to the »weaker sex«
and from the mid 1980s it shifts its focus more on individuals
who impress with a talent or vitality they posses (Na
primjeru mog života — My Life as an Example). Finally,
the war in the first half of the 1990s introduces a new
theme in Krelja’s work. He talks about war traumas and
individual sufferings. This is best evident in the films Na
sporednom kolosijeku (At the Railway Siding)
and Zoran Šipoš i njegova Jasna (Zoran Šipoš
and his Jasna).