Family Dinner and Video Tapes By Ivan Karl

in 16th Ljubljana International Film Festival (LIFFE)

by Ivan Karl

War, deaths, burden of the past, daily troubles, doubtful future… These painful subjects are often the preoccupation of the authors from the states arising from the former Yugoslavia. Every now and then something different and unexpected catches us by surprise — a film which allows us to leave the theatre in a better if not happier mood — with a sense of optimism and understanding for the ordinary things and events which surround us. For most people in the Balkans, during this stressful period of transition (faster or slower depending on the place of occurrence but nevertheless making a road towards Europe) even a boost through a movie can be beneficial.

The Croatian cinema of the last decade has given us a few wonderful comedies, How The War Started On My Island, Marshal, Cashier Wants To Go To The Seaside… All had great success with the audience and none had a bad critical review. On this same path is the film What Iva Recorded On October 21, 2003 (Sta Je Iva Snimila 21 Listopadia, 2003), directed by Tomislav Radic; a modest project completed with minimal finances and technique. Everything else is grand.

At a glance, we see an ordinary day in a middle class family from Zagreb. The daughter Iva is celebrating her 14th birthday, when she gets a digital camera, a present from her stepfather Boza, a moderate and competent, but above all conservative man. Iva’s mother Zeljka, is a desperate housewife on the edge of climax, but devoted to her husband. The birthday party itself is on the same day when a wealthy man from Germany, Hoffman, is due to arrive, with whom Boza, a small businessman hopes to form a future partnership. In order to make a good impression and create a foundation for a good co-operation, he invites him to a gala diner in his ‘idyllic’ home. The gentleman from Germany, however, is not the only guest and, prior to him, arrives Zarko, Zeljka’s complex brother, a self-proclaimed artist with an identity crisis. He is escorted by his last minute girl friend for conversational and other things, his good looking ‘lady of the night’, Nina. From the beginning, all the odds are against the clumsy host. The atmosphere is tense, the food is getting cold, the alcohol drunk, the guest of honour is late, and when he finally arrives the ride gets bumpier. In a word a real catastrophe caught by the eye of the camera in the hands of our main character. She records everything all the time, even when it drives everybody out.

The charming script was written by Ognejen Svilicic and Tomislav Radic (an experienced television director) who routinely grasp the story and skilfully conduct a small cast led by the brilliant Ivo Gregurevic and Anja Sovagovic Despot. The interpretations are fresh and honest from the first to final act, simple and free from unnecessary stereotypes, and really enjoyable.

This well directed home video, weaved by black humour and satire, without a doubt represents the mentality and the state of consciousness of the little man and his big struggle for a better future, which drives one to overcome its mental and ethical possibilities. The events shown in the film, in which every average family can see itself, are truthful and caught between fiction and reality.

This reality is made and kept by the intelligent camera work. DVCam is used as a real tool and toy and every other way of shooting would just ruin the main idea. That is perhaps the reason why the film seems non conventional, almost as a type of an experiment, but in the end the cause justifies the means.