Monday, May 11, 2015

Early Works

Rani radovi; experimental film, Serbia, 1969; D: Želimir Žilnik, S: Milja Vujanović, Bogdan Tirnanić, Čedomir Radović, Marko Nikolić

A girl and three guys are unsatisfied with their monotone lives in a city. Inspired by protests and revolutions of '68, they use a car to cross a river and embark on a journey to awake the consciousness of the people and fulfil the Marxist revolution. As they enter a village, the peasants do not understand them and beat them up in the mud. They try a city next and enter a factory, but the workers seem to be confused by their speeches as well. The girl suggests that the key to their weakness is the lack of force, and thus they get guns to enforce the revolution. However, this fails as well. In the end, the three guys want to rape her in the field, but when she tells them they are failures, they kill her and burn her body.

One of the prime examples of the Yugoslav black wave, Zelimir Zilnik's experimental satire on (pseudo)Communist regimes, "Early Works", even went so far to get the main prize at the Berlinale. One of those 'anti-narrative' films, "Early Works" refuses to align into a normal story and instead can be seen as a pure stylistic exercise, where the director simply has a fun time while playing with numerous movie tricks, all the while allegorically mocking and criticizing the (pseudo)Communist regimes in those days as inefficient and dishonest, for which it fell a victim to the Yugoslav censors, who placed it in a bunker, yet that only strengthened its cult status. Presented as a road movie involving four nameless protagonists, three men and one woman (on IMDb, her name is presented as "Yugoslava", which is even more of staggering symbolism considering what her fate is at the end of the movie), who come to realize that they simply cannot communicate, or simply articulate their Marxism to the people who consider them as "aliens". Some of the dialogues are fascinatingly subversive: "According to you, Castro should have stayed in the forest? According to you, Lenin should have never left the Swiss territory? According to you, Stalin should have stayed incarcerated, where he was incarcerated? According to you, Imre Nagy should still be alive today?" The sequence where the woman and the man are naked, taking a shower at the factory, also stands out as quite brave and untrammelled. However, since the film is basically a satirical commentary, it drags on for way too long, and not every scene has an inspiration to justify its existence in the footage, which in the end turns the film slightly dry, redundant and ardous at times, at least until the strong ending sets in.


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