Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Signals Over the City

Signali nad gradom; war / drama, Croatia, 1960; D: Žika Mitrović, S: Aleksandar Gavrić, Ivan Šubić, Marija Točinoski, Miha Baloh, Dragan Ocokoljić, Velimir 'Bata' Živojinović

Karlovac during World War II. Tomo, the partisan member of the Chief of Staff, arrives in town, but is wounded and arrested by the Totalitarian Nazi-Ustashe forces, together with his Taxi driver Pero. In order to save him from the hospital, partisan Ranko and over 20 of his soldiers disguise themselves as a Ustashe unit, enter the hospital and get him out in a ambulance car. Ranko also meets his ex-girlfriend there, doctor Dinka, who wanted to stay in the city and work in a steady job. However, the Ustasha commander Lukarić stops the partisans at a bridge and opens fire on them. In the end, the bridge explodes, but the partisans manage to survive.

One of the early examples of the Yugoslav 'partisan genre', "Signals Over the City" is a proportionally well made World War II film mostly thanks to the balanced, elegant and highly even direction by Zika Mitrovic, who manages to keep it professional, though a few subtle moments of propaganda do show up here and there (for instance, when partisan Ranko talks with his ex-girlfriend, Dr. Dinka, in the hospital, she laments how "futile" his resistance is against the Axis powers: "What can you do against such a powerful war machine?"). The opening act where Toma is arrested at the main train station is effective and dynamic, yet the film loses steam and becomes tiresome after a while, until it continues to drag: it somehow seems overlong, or it lacked more of such suspenseful moments. The subplot where the partisans disguise themselves as an ustasha unit in order to secretly enter a hospital and save their fellow is original, yet not quite as brilliant or ingenious as a very similar situation in Lubitsch's "To Be or Not To Be". The acting is fine, though slightly timid and stiff, though typical for that era. The storyline never quite engages the viewers in the last third until the battle finale at the bridge, but overall, "Signals" is a decent attempt at an action-spy film that delivered more than enough to justify its existence.

Grade;++

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