Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Officer with a Rose

Oficir s ružom; romantic drama, Croatia, 1987; D: Dejan Šorak, S: Ksenija Pajić, Žarko Laušević, Dragana Mrkić, Vicko Ruić, Boris Buzančić

Zagreb just after World War II. The partisans won the war and established a new socialist Yugoslavia, massively arresting anyone who cooperated with the Axis forces. At first sentenced to six month of hard labour just because her late husband was friends with a German commander who went to college with him, bourgeois Matilda is nonetheless acquitted of all charges thanks to the intervention of partisan Petar Horvat. The 18-year old partisan girl Ljiljana is sent to Matilda's large apartment by the authorities in order to "use the empty space", but her boyfriend Petar falls in love with Matilda. The authorities do not want a partisan to be influenced by a bourgeois, so he is sent away in a different town. He marries Ljiljana eventually, but dies in a clash.

Even though often melodramatic, Dejan Sorak's romantic drama "The Officer with a Rose" is a surprisingly touching and engaging film that works in that 'good old school' straight-forward way, relaying more on character development and pure emotions than some audacious-bombastic effects. In the opening scene, the partisans walk across the Zagreb streets and sing "The holy land is where we pass", but during night that is juxtaposed with their members secretly collecting their opponents at night and driving them away into the unknown: it is a quiet and relatively brave film that openly criticizes both the partisan myths and the pseudo-communist government in one, while Croatia was still part of Yugoslavia, covertly also already showing back then, four years before its Independence, how Croatia was uneasy living in that federation. Sorak was acclaimed for "sophisticated erotic scenes", but they are overrated, basically rather ordinary and scarce, and despite his somber tone he still "slipped" with a few banal moments, like when the immature Ljilana unbuttons her shirt and shows her (small) breasts to Matilda to ask her: "What do you think? Are my breasts pretty?" or when she wants to take a bath with her, explaining it with such cheesy line as: "It will be as if I am taking a bath with my mom!" The sole love triangle sealed off in an apartment has spark, though it is not quite clear why or how Matilda would fall in love with the man she hates so much, Petar, the narrative is fluent and clear whereas the final scene with Matilda holding Petar's letter in her hand still seems poetic and touching.

Grade:+++

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