Monday, December 3, 2007

How the War Started on My Island

Kako je počeo rat na mom otoku; Tragicomedy, Croatia, 1996; D: Vinko Brešan, S: Vlatko Dulić, Ljubomir Kerekeš, Ivan Brkić, Matija Prskalo, Predrag Vusović, Božidar Orešković, Ivica Vidović, Rene Bitorajac, Senka Bulić

In the early 1990's, Croatia separates from Yugoslavia, but one JNA barrack on some Croatian island refuses to accept the change of it's sovereignty and supports the war against it's new homeland. At the same time, Blaž, an old man, arrives to the island with a bus in order to bail out his son who is one of the soldiers in the barrack. The inhabitants already organized a real show of singers, poets, maniacs and friends of the soldiers who are day and night trying to talk the Major of the barrack, Aleksa, to peacefully surrender. But the cynical Aleksa refuses. Then the inhabitants trick him by dressing Blaž as a JNA general who enters the barrack and orders them to evacuate the soldiers and all the bombs out. When Aleksa spots he was tricked, he start shooting at people, but it's too late.

Although the funny comedy with a little bit too strange and pretentious tragic open ending "How the War Started on my Island" grossed over 1.1 million $ at the Croatian box office and became the most successful Croatian film of the 90s, the director Vinko Bresan and his father, the screenwriter Ivo Bresan, still made a few weird and weak decisions that reduced it's quality. The sole story about a stranded JNA barrack in the newly formed state of Croatia is excellent, filled with unusual camera angles and quirky atmosphere, but the film heavily overstretched itself and took obviously too many empty scenes, whereas the fact that it's cold isn't such a flaw as a few lousy attempts at low brow US comedies or scattered characters of which none managed to rise as the main hero, which can cause a deformed impression. One of the cutes gags is the one where inhabitants of the island are constantly trying to persuade the JNA Major Aleksa (excellent Ljubomir Kerekeš) through the Loudspeaker to peacefully give up his barrack by playing music or inviting various people, one time even his wife who says on the microphone: "Aleksa, come back home...I made you pastasuta!" Sadly, the movie didn't manage without the infamous trademark of Croatia's "black hole of 90's cinema" pretentiousness, like swearing or primitive behavior, yet it's still a surprisingly good film with a sense for humor and symbolical presentation of the war in Croatia.


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