Except from winning the two top prizes in the Greek and International competition respectively at this year’s Short Film Festival in Drama, Greek-Swedish Nicolas Kolovos’ Fig (Siko, 2015) and Montenegrin Senad Sahmanovic’s Tranquility of Blood (Umir krvi, 2015) share the same theme, which is also explored through similar stories with several common thematic and stylistic traits that culminate in similar endings, both of which use the same motif. Not without flaws, both films tell heartfelt stories of closure and the peace that comes with it, even more important when it marks the end of one’s life.
Fig is a 13-minute dramedy that tells the story of a lonely, aged couple living isolated in the Greek mountains. The woman is bed-ridden and closer to death by the minute, barely able to whisper her last wish to her adoring husband. She craves a fig and the husband rushes on his donkey to get it for her before she passes away. Alas, it’s going to be a lot harder than he imagined, and so the plot follows his effort to meet his dying wife’s wish, through multiple obstacles.
Fig was one of the best films of the festival, mainly due to its attention to detail, its delicate balance between humour and sorrow and the unflagging performance of the film’s aged protagonist, Kostas Laskos. Thanks to Kolovos’ persistence on verisimilitude, the actor had to actually run, climb, fall, dive and swim in order to realistically present his character’s anguish. His strenuous effort is accentuated by Andreas Nilsson’s well-paced and precise editing, while Dionisis Efthimiopoulos’ soft coloured cinematography contributes to the bittersweet lightness and affection of the story. It is only because of the film’s overall meticulousness that the pivotal moment, in which the fig is eaten by the donkey, is weakened by its naive staging.
On the other hand, Tranquility of Blood is a 22-minute revenge drama taking place again in a mountainous setting, where an old couple seeks revenge for the death of their son. As in Fig, the plot revolves around a pending obligation, that has to be fulfilled by the man, prompted into action by the woman. Manipulating the unwritten law of vendetta, the couple sets a trap by orchestrating the husband’s fake death, thus allowing their son’s young killer to return to the village, from which he has been living in exile since the killing. When he returns we realize that he is not a killer of sorts, but a non-belligerent regular guy with his wife and little child, who unwillingly killed the couple’s son in an accident of unspecified circumstances. Thus, the old couple’s goal is invalidated and remains to be seen whether the father will go through with his act of revenge.
Sahmanovic’s film is also well staged and acted with cinematographer Daniel Mateic offering a much earthier and harsher colour palette to match the anger, grief and the feeling of imminent death diffused in the plot. Its rather apparent symbolic ending is preceded by an equally clichéd turning point with the little child shooting his toy gun at the raging father, who is seconds away from killing an innocent man. The child’s intervention is abrupt and out of place with the general tone of the film, providing a rather easy resolution to the father’s dilemma.
So, what we have here, are two films about two old couples living in the mountains, in each of which a man sets out to fulfil an obligation set to him by a woman. What is interesting, is that after all the running and scheming, the couples finish their journey in the same piece of furniture; their bed, where they are reunited for eternity in a final moment of stillness. A place of rest and warmth, where all couples meet at the end of every day, it signifies companionship, love and, ultimately, the restoration of peace.
Edited by Michael Pattison
© FIPRESCI 2015