Sunday, May 16, 2010

Prometheus from the Island of Viševica

Prometej s otoka Viševica; Drama, Croatia, 1964; D: Vatroslav Mimica, S: Slobodan Dimitrijević, Janez Vrhovec, Mira Sardoć, Dina Rutić, Pavle Vuijisić, Fabijan Šovagović

Mate, a middle aged director of a company from a megalopolis, travels in a ship to visit his birth place, island of Viševica. There he is greeted like a hero since he is scheduled to hold a speech for a ceremony, so he spends the time by showing his wife the island. When he spots his old acquaintance Vinko, he starts getting haunted by his depressive past: as a young lad, Mate fought for Partisans in World War II, but was disappointed when Communism actually made the poor island even poorer. He brought electricity to the island, though the backward inhabitants were fiercely against it. He got married and got a baby, but realized the life on Viševica lacks any perspective. He thus left the island to find a job in some city. Back in present, Mate holds a speech and advises a local lad not to give up on his dream, a tourist center.

Winner of the Golden Arena in 1964, "Prometheus from the Island of Viševica" is a peculiar, but heavy and extremely demanding 'flashback' drama by director Vatroslav Mimica. The story is a modern paraphrase of the myth of Prometheus - just like the mythological god brought fire to people and was thus punished, the hero in this film, the middle aged Mate, remembers how he brought electricity to the backward (fictional) island of Viševica when he was a young lad, but was ridiculed by the inhabitants and, as a set of strange events, estranged his wife, family and had to leave to find a job in an alien city. Humorless and slightly pretentious at times, "Prometheus" exceeds mostly in the crystal clear (black and white) cinematography that was groundbreaking for Yugoslav cinema back in those times: it is filled with nice stylish touches (for instance, the great slow-motion scene where Mate throws a grenade, it explodes and the Fascist soldier slowly falls to the ground; the photo of young Mate "waking to life" when he smiles; phatamorgana shot of a distant ship slowly getting "back into focus"). However, the rest of the film is not as engaging. It has a few brave sparks for that time (like when the poor peasants complain when they have to give so much of their crops for Collectivization during Communism), but basically it is just a standard grey tragedy, burdened by the heavy symbolism towards the finale where Mate tries to move the massive block of white stone. The actors are great, however, from Janez Vrhoves as the old Mate up to to his counterpart Slobodan Dimitrijević as young Mate. As a whole, "Prometheus" seizes more attention with its quirky title than with its content.


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