European Searches By Bruno Kragic

in 6th Lecce Festival of European Cinema

by Bruno Kragic

During the 6th festival of European cinema in Lecce (Italy), the National Union of Italian Film Critics held a meeting to discuss the identity of European cinema. If one looks at the ten films in competition, a common trait would be some sort of search or quest. Although the subject of the search is one of the most universal subjects in cinema in general, national or continental frontiers notwithstanding, it would be interesting to see how these films from all over Europe use the subject and to find the similarities between them.

Family searches, in the most direct sense, are the subjects of the Hungarian film Guarded secrets (Mélyen orzött titkok) by Zsuzsa Boszormény, in which a young girl leaves an orphanage and tries to find her mother. The Macedonian film How I Killed a Saint (Kako ubiv svetec) by Teona Strugar Mitevska is about another female protagonist who tries to recover her daughter, while the Italian film You have to be a wolf (Tu devi essere il lupo) by Vittorio Moroni, tells a story about a long-absent mother who returns, but in the end doesn’t reveal herself to her daughter who, at the same time, reinterprets her relationship with her father.

Each of these three films also explores the inner searches of their protagonists during their quest for their cultural or personal identity, for family, social or mental balance. This is, more generally speaking, the subject of the Russian film My Step-brother Frankenstein (Moj polbrat Frankenstein) by Valery Todorovsky, as it is the subject of the Polish film Symmetry (Symetria) by Konrad Niewolski, in which a young protagonist, wrongly imprisoned, finds a higher sense of purpose for which he eventually sacrifices his freedom.

In the British film Yasmin, a young Muslim woman in Yorkshire goes through a cultural and personal transformation, while in the Slovenian film The Ruins (Ruevine) by Janez Burger, the subject is given through the story of a search for artistic achievement.

Finally, some films have developed the subject of search or quest on both the literal and the metaphorical level. In the Icelandic film Niceland by Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, the protagonist literally searches for the meaning of life trying to learn it from a media-inaugurated philosophical guru; in the Spanish film February (Febrer), by Silvia Quer, the hero searches through video-tapes on which his ex-girlfriend documented her entire life, whereas in Fallen (Krisana), a film by German director Fred Kelemen, shot in Latvia, the protagonist searches for a woman he thinks has fallen from the bridge. His search soon becomes the main purpose of his life; as he finally finds the woman alive and well, he has by then destroyed another life and his inner search does not seem to be resolved. The absence of any clear-cut resolutions was, in fact, another common trait of most of the films in this festival, as was the fact that some of the films have also tried to find (search) the most appropriate forms for their subjects. This, in a way, reopens the question of identity put at the beginning.