Wednesday, June 27, 2007

There Grows a Green Pine in the Woods

U gori raste zelen bor; war/ drama, Croatia, 1971; D: Antun Vrdoljak, S: Ivica Vidović, Boris Dvornik, Veljko Milojević, Mato Ergović, Inge Appelt, Rade Šerbedžija
World War II, Yugoslavia, Banija. Partisans Ivan and Dikan fall from a carriage from too fast driving. They often argue with each other, but still lead their Partisan division fairly well. They catch a bunch of soldiers of the Croatian Home Guards, armed forces of the Greater Croatia Axis state, in the forest and let a part of them go home, but take the rest as their new recruits. Among the new ones is also a musician who is playing the song "There Grows a Green Pine in the Woods " on his harmonica. Disguised as Croatian Home Guards soldiers, they enter into the enemy Ustasha fortress, but get discovered when Dikan's Partisan hat falls out of his pants. Still, they manage to win and put the fortress on fire. Ivan is slightly depressed because he left his wife while Dikan kills a Serbian Sargent who collaborated with the Nazis. They conquer another fortress but Dikan gets wounded so they have to retreat.

This antiwar drama "There Grows a Green Pine in the Woods" from director Antun Vrdoljak, filmed on the 30th anniversary of the build-up of Partisan resistance, is a great, refreshingly realistic (and comical) Partisan film and even surpasses his previous effort, "When You Hear the Bells": even the two main actors from that previous film, Ivica Vidović and Boris Dvornik, are once again starring in the story and practically reprising their roles. The story is rich with fresh gags that are creating a subversive irony during the state of the World War II - already in the opening shots the two heroes humorously fall from a carriage from too fast driving, and Ivan laments to Dikan for his rush ("Do we have to die before we even get to out platoon?") capture a bunch of Croatian Home Guards soldiers, take their clothes off and send them home in their underpants (one of them refuses to strip in front of a female Partisan soldier, saying: "Should we take our cloths in front of a lady?", upon which she replies to him: "Just go ahead, you're not even half a man!") while one soldiers carries a photo of his cow in the fortress. Already classic is the genius sequence where Dikan is forcing a soldier to dig his own grave, preceding a similar one in the famous "Saving Private Ryan" filmed almost 30 years later, creating multilayered characters in he midst of chaotic era, and despite the fact that the action sequences are naive and too casual, it is hard to resist the raw charm of this spontaneous movie as a whole, since there is no empty walk. Likewise, Dikan's final words are unforgettable.


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