Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Call of Spring

Praznovanje pomladi; drama, Slovenia, 1978; D: France Štiglic, S: Zvone Agrez, Zvezdana Mlakar, Radklo Polič, Dare Ulaga, Lojze Rozman

During one winter, a Slovenian village in the 19th century is still following the pagan tradition of summoning the spring by dressing people into a fur of ram and ritually dancing. Since the church considers that tradition "devilish", she summons the army to ban it. A soldier, Simon, is in love with Suzana, but she was sold and married to Štefan, the son of the main man who summons the spring. Simon's father advises him to use the ban to kill Štefan as an excuse and get Suzana, but he refuses. Simon abandons his uniform and puts on the ritual mask himself. Štefan kills a man behind the mask, thinking it is Simon. But when the mask is revealed, it turns out he killed his brother.

The penultimate film of the talented director France Štiglic, "The Call of Spring" is not among the most significant movies in the Slovenian cinema, nor in his own filmography, either. It is a folklore based, ethnic-history drama where the main tangle - a pagan tradition of summoning the spring with ritual dancing behind masks - is just a polygon for a love triangle that re-examines some themes of honor, integrity and opportunism. By having the two men, Simon and Štefan, dress in the traditional cloth of a ram, the director let's them fight for the girl they both love, symbolically just like two rams clash to get a female sheep. The ritual dancing - sometimes even filmed in slow-motion - gives the story a surreal touch at times, hinting at some cyclical events in human lives, the cinematography and the mood are naturalistic and the snowy landscapes aesthetic, yet "Spring" is indeed overlong, especially in the already tiring finale, to sustain a sharper impression among the audience, while the dialoges were too conventional. The hidden theme - a clash between tradition and modernism, evident also in heroine Suzana who does not want to yield to traditional marriage with Štefan, but wants to be with Simon, a man of her own choice - is refreshing, while the actors all give very good performances in the overall solid execution.


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