Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dancing in the Rain

Ples v dežju; drama, Slovenia, 1961; D: Boštjan Hladnik, S: Duša Počkaj, Miha Baloh, Rado Nakrst, Ali Raner

Peter is a depressive alcoholic who works as a elementary school art teacher. He has affairs with a prostitute, Magda, while at the same time continuing his half-hearted relationship with the older woman, struggling theatre actress Maruša. They both live in old apartments and dream of better lives. Peter wants a younger, beautiful woman, Maruša wants to be famous, while Anton, her friend, dreams Maruša will love him someday and forget about Peter. After Peter points out again how old she is in a restaurant, Maruša commits suicide in her apartment. Peter realizes he loved her and walks down in the rain.

Considered to be the best film of Slovene cinema of the 20th century, "Dancing in the Rain" is one of the first modernist films in Yugoslav cinema: director Bostjan Hladnik studied various film techniques from Chabrol in Paris, and applied them here to such an extent that the film seems modern and timeless even today, despite its black and white cinematography. The story - two lovers who are depressed with their lives in the city - is conventional and bland, yet enriched with such a fresh, unconventional style, it gains momentum. The story follows the dreams of the two protagonists: in one brilliant sequence, Marusa finds herself on a meadow, 'Heidi' style, and is picked up by a peasant driving a carriage. He recognizes her because she is a famous actress. Marusa continues by foot and runs into the forest, falling on the grass from joy because someone acknowledged her acting talent. However, the sound of a knocking door is heard. She then turns around and spots a door - in the middle of the forest. There is a transition of a door inside a new scene, in an apartment, and Marusa awakens in her bed, realizing it was all just a dream.

The movie is filled with such meticulous daydreaming transitions, and they make it stand out from the rest of the films from that era. Peter's nightmare of running pass by men carrying cofins is also virtuoso crafted. "Rain" has an excellent mise-en-scene, an excellent visual style (very dynamic camera, vibrant shot compositions and camera angles) and excellent overall technical execution - except that it lacks a soul. It is as if Hladnik wanted to dazzle too much by doing "Look what I can do!", but alas, just like Godard, his storyline is artificial and without real pathos. Sometimes, too much directing techniques disrupt from the actual story, like here. It is a minor flaw, yet "Rain" never seems true. It does not have that 'inner directing' skill where you forget about how, why and what way this or that was filmmed, and are just glued to the screen naturally because the characters are the main attraction, not the director. Still, it is an excellent art-film, nonetheless.



Shayan said...

Enjoyed your review. Personally I really liked the film, especially the two young lovers who prop up everywhere to contrast with the main narrative.

Marin Mandir said...

Thank you. I liked the film as well, obviously.