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The world of Veljko Bulajić's films: the meeting place of the individual and the collective

During the fifty years of his work, from his first feature film Vlak bez voznog reda, to Libertas, his last one, Veljko Bulajić's films received contrary reception - from the unquestionably positive to the unquestionably negative one. Both of these contrary positions were conditioned by ideology: also when Bulajić's work was marked positively, it was done because of political and ideological beliefs so these reviews did not survive the passage of time. On the other hand, when he was denied, it was done a priori and without any wish to identify specific aesthetic values. However, there have never been any neutral judgments in terms of ideology. On the contrary, even in some recent reviews (Škrabalo, 2008) Bulajić is defined as a state director who filmed The Battle of Neretva (1969) as a contribution to Tito’s cult of personality and who, in opposition to the Serbian "black wave", founded and headed the state-backed "red wave". Bulajić’s first film Vlak bez voznog reda (1959) appeared at the end of the fifties of the Croatian cinema as a logical continuation of aesthetic and realistic tendencies of the earlier period but at the same time as the herald of a new aesthetics. The principal thesis of this essay is that the work of Veljko Bulajić is the adequate place for the study of the work of ideology in film in the Yugoslav socialistic context. It is considered that the relation of the film discourse towards ideology is one of the crucial moments for film in Yugoslavia in general, i.e. that Yugoslav film appeared in the context of the tension between an artistic position and social demands. That this is true of the entire Eastern European film of former communist countries was established also by Antonín and Mira Liehm (1977) who claim that "the problem of the form itself has become political and all the attempts to express new formal approaches have become political attempts". Of all Croatian directors, who all worked in ideological circumstances without exception, Bulajić can best serve for ideological reading and cultural critique since through his films and through the changes in his work through decades in which the system itself changed, the relationship between film and context, film texts and ideological discourse can be explored. From Bulajić’s consistent belief that the out-of-film world must be perceived as a socio-political one (revolution, war, state systems) and that it can be represented in the illusion of the film world, arise Bulajić’s constant themes and light motifs, as well as repeated narrative structures, or rather, the auteurship of Bulajić’s work. His work, comprising thirteen films, is classified in four triptychs in this essay: the first three films being heterogeneous in terms of style, a partisan trilogy with its Kozara that fits the very top of the then Eastern European trends, a sort of a socio-political trilogy from the 1980s and a group of films comprising costume historic films with political themes.

Tomislav Šakić

Ideology and values in Yugoslav war movies: sociological analysis of Veljko Bulajić’s The Battle of Neretva
Totalitarianism and Yugoslav socialist experience: Stipe Delić’s Sutjeska
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