Vol 1, No 18
25 October 1999
K I N O E Y E:|
Cutting it Short
Serbian short and experimental films at the Raindance Film Festival
Andrew J Horton
Taking place at the Global Cafe in London, the Raindance Film Festival's two showings of short films, aimed to offer an overview of the variety of trends in the Serbian short and experimental film industry. The approaches spanned the purely abstract, the symbolic and the realistic. Indeed the very difficulty in categorising the films and comparing them is some indication of the diversity and originality on offer.
Starting the first screening was Olivera Milos Todorovic's Vampasan (1998), both a literal enquiry into love and relationships and a modern dance piece symbolising the commentary. The film was produced by B92, the famed independent radio station, the discussions were taken from live phone-in programmes on the station. What most notably emerged from the discussion, is not so much a harmony between the sexes, but a war of attrition. The men feel that tradition is imposed on them, while the women complain about the culture of machoism.
The film neutrally catches the range of opinions, with quotes which go all the way from "if we could only make a coalition with our parteners, if we could only confide in them and talk" to "I slap her and then she calms down" and "I even think women like that sort of thing [beatings]." But if there is one thing that is acknowledged by all, it is that tension between the sexes exists, even if some seem defiantly happy with the situation and others wish to analyse the root of the problem or propose solutions.
The theme of tension in society is dealt with more abstractly in Sahovski zivot (The Life of Chess ) by Vladimir Borislavljevic. Chess is portrayed as a confrontational battle of rigid and geometric moves against the clock. The conflict becomes increasingly phrenetic until the tension is broken and the game dissolves into an animated dance of the pieces, which glide around each other, black mixing with white, and the grid that usually confines them ignored. The film ends with an inter-title which quotes Stalin: "Confidence is good, but control is better."
Milenko Zablecanski's Covek i cosovnik (Man and Clock, 1997) also deals with the ticking away of time and the confines imposed by society. A man lives in a run-down room where the furniture seems to get more out of life than he does. Ruled by the clock and its irregular ticking, the man dies when the clock stops.
Not all comments on society were so oblique. Kuca (Home, 1996, director not listed) portrays the real-life chores of an elderly couple. The cook, eat, sew, read, play cards and all-in-all seem like an normal couple. It is only after five or six minutes of examining their lives in close up (both figuratively and literally) that the camera pulls back to reveal that they do not in fact have a home, and that they live in the converted gymnasium of an elementary school along with countless other refugees. A closing intertitle reveals that they are Serbian refugees from Bihac, displaced since 1992.
In Milos Tomic's Seliste - A Place Where a Village Was (1996), the aesthetics of decay are used to evoke a sense of nostalgia and loss. As a deserted village is used to show its past life through the use of shots of grainy wooden beams, faded sepia-toned photos and the weather-worn face of a former inhabitant. Set against the region's recent history of the scorched earth policies of war, the film is poignant in its sad beauty.
Meanwhile, Mechanique Folie by Lily Ewgraphovitch and Maximilian von Dada, contrasts images of old technology and new technology to present "Movie Lessons in Gene Biotechnology", as the film is cheekily subtitled by its equally cheekily named directors. If the name von Dada wasn't enough of a giveaway, the film uses a classic piece of surrealist imagery, the sewing machine to create a hymn to both technology and the unrestrained unconsciousness.
Not all the films chose to engage with the limited field of politics or social comment. Vladimir Borisavljevic's Krug (The Circle, 1998) was a soothing example of meditative experimental film. Constructed of shots of autumn leaves in gurgling water and pebbles rounded by the stream's flow, Krug has an unusual ability to transport you to a calmer place within yourself and stands out as one of the more successful pieces of the genre.
Perhaps with some of the philosophy or Krug rubbing off onto this article, we shall end where we began - with love. Srce (Heart, 1997) by Aleksandra Dulic and Vladimir Stolic, is a technophilic view of love. The film consists of a view of an computer-animated heart, which transforms from a shocking pink hard-edged metallic icon to an amorphous mass of globules, breathing and deep red in a box beneath the open sky.
The range of these films illustrates the breadth of talent that exists amongst Serbian short film-makers. Sadly, production has now almost stopped in Serbia and none of the films on show were from this year, despite the screening aiming to show "new" films.
Andrew J Horton, 25 October 1999
See also this week's article on the innovative Belgrade production company Fiks Fokus, who produced many of the films in this series.
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