Steps into the World of a Woman

in 28th European Film Festival, Palić

by Dinu-Ioan Nicula

Under the auspices of Nenad Dukić, whose credo is “that European film is vital and that European filmmakers have not lost their creative power”, the official selection of the 28th edition of the Festival of Palić offered many challenges to the cinephiles. There was an atmosphere of excitement as the audience awaited with anticipation the national premiere of the historical film Bad Blood (Necista krv: Greh predaka, 2021), made by Milutin Petrović and based on the novel of Serbian writer Borislav Stanković. The director, however, seems to be undecided in striking the balance between the demonstration of his patriotism and the catching of the generation from the globalisation era. The film is unsensible to the national history and more interested in sex scenes, which the Bad Blood’s actors offer with full commitment.

Another film from ex-Yugoslavia, the Croatian-Serbian coproduction A Blue Flower (Plavi cvijet, 2021), tried a non-sophisticated approach to the feminist theme, through the character of a middle-aged textilist, played by the well-known Vanja Ciric. The director Zrinko Ogresta wants to implement a love triangle at the core of his story, but the result is pale and, in a way, unconvincing. A more diverse look upon some female souls and more profound was a film out of competition, Only Human (2020), from the Macedonian director Igor Ivanov Izi. A gift for the audience that pilgered to the summer night screenings like to a feast was also The Duke, by the same British director who made Notting Hill, Roger Michell. Included last fall in the selection of the Venice Film Festival, the movie relies on the magnetic tandem between Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren, in a melange of cinema that is filmed “in the manner of the sixties” and centres around a slogan coined by French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: “Property is theft”, applied in this case to a painting.

The political involvement becomes unveiled in Copilot (Die Welt wird eine andere sein, 2021), by German director Anne Zohra Behrached, with the mise en scene of a love history that focuses on the responsibility for the life choices made by our partners. The path towards radicalism as chosen by the main male character is narrated from the perspective of his wife, played by Canan Kir, who gives a great performance that not only catches the attention of the audience but also that of the director, who, at some point, seems to forget his subplot to some extent. In a similar vein was also The Mauritanian (2021) by Kevin McDonald, an acclaimed documentarist-turned-feature-film-maker and master of his artistic tools. The topic of the abuses that happened in the prison of Guantanamo, which were brought to attention by mass-media, was dramatically put on screen by Jodie Foster and Tahar Rahimi, two amazing actors.

The war, although not that against the terrorism, is the canvas of Natural Light (Természetes Fény, 2021) by director Dénes Nagy. His debut feature is an equivocal psychological portrait of a Hungarian soldier on the Eastern front in WW2, oscillating between the duty of protecting his comrades and the humanitarism towards the partisans. The unsolved aspects of some moments of the plot make this unsettling film more a masterpiece of the DOP Tamás Dobos than an accomplished proof of directing.

Very contradictory is also the latest film by Kirill Serebrennikov, Petrov’s Flu (Petrov v grippe, 2021), an ironical pamphlet in baroque style that centres around a comic book artist, set against a society that has lost its real values, keeping only some clichés from the old ones. It’s a pity that, from the middle of the film, the director himself seems to lose direction, similar to the attention of the spectator. Equally far from flawless was France (2021) by Bruno Dumont but, thanks to Léa Seydoux, the director of Camille Claudel 1915 (2013) and Joan of Arc (Jeanne, 2019) at least manages to find artistic (less human) motivations for the mind-boggling evolution of the female journalist at the centre of the film. At a lower level, another female destiny and bigger-than-life story seemed to be the one of the girl from the Polish film I Never Cry (Jak Najdaled Stad, 2020) by Piotr Domalewski – with the young actress Zofia Stafiej being exceptional in the lead role, a real discovery. Finally, set in the world of teenagers was also the Turkish-Romanian coproduction Brother’s Keeper (Okul Tirași, 2021) by Ferit Karahan, a strong (and subversive) metaphor for the universe of the Kurdish pupils, surrounded by the snow as well as by the coldness of the nationalistic society.

Even more subtle, however, was The Worst Person in the World (Verdens verste menneske, 2021). With the help of various narrative twists and by using a bold mix of sound and image to restore the subjective perspective of the main character, the Norwegian director Joachim Trier succeeded to offer a piece of mastership into the analysis of the modern woman’s soul. On the edge of turning thirty, the daredevil (with a pharmaceutical drop of conformism) heroine becomes unforgettable due to the performance of Renate Reinsve, winner of a well-deserved prize for her performance at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. Under the stars of the last night of the European Film Festival of Palić, The Worst Person in the World received the award for the best film and also the FIPRESCI prize, its freshness being a true gift for all those who waited so long to meet again for post pandemic screenings, either open air or inside the cinema.

Dinu-Ioan Nicula
Edited by Pamela Jahn