Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lost Homeland

Izgubljeni zavičaj; drama, Croatia, 1980; D: Ante Babaja, S: Nereo Scaglia, Zvonimir Črnko, Miljenko Mužić, Jasminka Poklečki

A middle aged man returns to his come place, to the island of Cres, to attend a funeral. An excavation site triggers his childhood memories: as a child, he admired his father, the governor of a piece of land that is owned by Countess Valeria. Her daughter, Ines, went to a cave with him and awakened his sexual desire when the two kids were alone on a boat in the sea. However, he was quickly disappointed by his father, who was a notorious penny pincher and nitpicks against every employee, whether they caught fishes or picked grapes. When his father groped a 19-year old girl, an employee slapped him. After World War II, his father was killed by the partisans. Back in present, the man visits the grave of his father and laments to a man that his "bones are already in that grave".

After experimental film "The Emperor's New Clothes", and acclaimed 'straight-forward' dramas "The Birch Tree" and "Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh", director Ante Babaja delivered his 4th and penultimate film, the intimate "Lost Homeland", which is arguably his best achievement: both nostalgic and anti-nostalgic at the same time, this adaptation of Slobodan Novak's short novel is assembled in the form of 'stream-of-consciousness', but unlike many films of that format that quickly fall apart due to a too vague narrative, Babaja leads the whole storyline with an incredible oversight, wisdom, elegance and light hand, always keeping it under a tight grip. From the opening scenes where the hero is travelling in a ship back to his home place, the island of Cres, while two 'hippies' are humming Denver's song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" on their guitar, one can sense this is not going to be your average confrontation with childhood memories.

He remembers his father, one of the most (amusingly) annoying bosses who liked to nitpick against others for every little detail ("Don't eat too much grapes. You will have diarrhea"; "Why are you picking grapes in that shirt? It will get dirty") and realized how disappointing that world is. In a masterful transition, where he returns as a partisan, Babaja conjures up the 'frequency' of post World War II times with a single take, where a giant slogan is painted on a ruined wall: "Tito". A social revolution was implemented, where his father, the exploitative boss, was killed, but problems still remained. A slight controversy was caused in the scene where he, as an 11-year old, felt sexual sensation for the first time when he observed the breasts of a (15-year old?) girl, Ines, lying on the dock of the boat in the middle of the sea, but remarkably, it is done with taste and actually works. The shot composition - even though the Yugoslav cameras were inferior compared to the ones in the West - is wonderfully aesthetic and overlaps perfectly with he 'Mediterrenaean' environment and landscapes, the melancholic music is reminiscent of Morricone and direction itself of Pasolini. At the end, both worlds, pre and post war, are not perfect, and thus the hero mirrors Babaja often theme of an outsider, an individual who observes injustice and thus feels alienated in this world.


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