This year’s film festival in Valencia has given us the extraordinary opportunity to see a number of outstanding achievements in the field of acting. These were predominantly performed by young actresses who played in films with different subjects and different directorial styles and sensibilities. These include, among others, the performances of Jasna Zalica in Pjer Zalica’s “Fuse” (GORI VATRA, Bosnia and Herzegovina), of Natalia Stylianou in Dimitris Indares’s “Totally Married” (GAMILIA NARKI, Greece), and, certainly above all, of Ronit Elkabetz, the daughter in Keren Yedaya’s “Or” (OR, Israel), and of Leonora Seixas, the young girl in Luis Filipe Rocha’s “The Night Trip” (A PASSAGEM DA NOITE, Portugal).
At the same time, perhaps, these four performances, or even better, these four films could represent the ongoing attempt to find the “sign of recognition” for the film festival itself. In “Fuse” we are confronted with a contemporary political tale. The plot takes us to postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina, where nobody cares about morals or what is wrong and what is right, where everybody is just trying to survive and where those who are living in the past (like the father of a Muslim soldier who has been killed) are doomed to die out. In this plot, the role performed by Jasna Zelica, a pretty young women who happened to have timidly and open-heartedly loved the slain Muslim soldier and who, after his death, has become, according to some, “the Serbian whore”, is a personification of the transformation which ensures survival. Zelica uses all of her female attributes in a stylish and intelligent manner as the woman tries to overcome all the obstacles and become the “star of the small town” and the lead singer in the welcoming parade for Bill Clinton.
In “Totally Married”, through the part played by Natalia Stylianou, we encounter a totally different kind of professional sensitivity, one could even call it a “nervous one”. The film depicts the unusual love-life of one married Greek couple. A potential tragedy, the picture eventually becomes a tragicomedy thanks to the outstanding screenplay by Dimitris Inadares. Of course, this would not be the case without the remarkable performance of the actors involved. Natalia plays the wife who is the backbone of the family. She is going through all kinds of plights to find true love and in her “love charade”, she is aided by her husband, Fanis Mouratis.
The role played by the magnificent Israeli actress Ronit Elkabetz in the “cinema verité” “Or” was, perhaps, the most difficult one. It’s very easy if you “enter” the character, somebody might say. But how do you enter this character if you have never experienced the life of a prostitute or the life of a daughter living with her mother-prostitute? The answer might be: to show everything and nothing through emotions. This, however, can not be done in the absence of an outstanding director, in this case, Karen Yedaya.
Finally, the performance of Leonor Seixas in “The Night Trip” is not to be missed. Her role is the opposite of that of Ronit Elkabetz: it projects no emotions at all. Rarely altering her countenance, always self-confident, never exhibitionistic and always passionate, the actress builds the complex character of a young girl who having been raped and impregnated, and who has to decide what to do with the child which is about to be born. “It has a right to live and to be happy”, she says and thereupon decides to make the child available for adoption. Having no proper rapport with her parents, she finds sympathy and understanding in a police inspector who, coincidentally, is investigating a homicide involving the person who raped her.
Overall, having began with an intensely political-tale about life in today’s Bosnia and Herzegovina, we have moved to talk about a mesmerizing story about an unusual Greek love and the one of the many conundrums of living in contemporary Israel, only to finish in today’s Portugal, where one young girl, having undergone a deep psychological trauma, is tormented by her moral and personal dilemmas that have arisen from the circumstances of being a rape-victim and a mother of a child of rape. Such dissimilarities. Such differences. Such diversity. That’s the joy of being in Valencia on Mostra del Cine del Mediterani these days.
© FIPRESCI 2004