Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Return of Katarina Kožul

Povratak Katarine Kožul; drama, Croatia / Germany, 1989; D: Slobodan Praljak, S: Alma Prica, Mustafa Nadarević, Jadranka Matković, Fabijan Šovagović, Ivo Gregurević, Annemarie Wendl

Herzegovina. Vinko and Katarina get married and get a child, but the unemployment in the area in unbearable. Vinko decides to emigrate to Germany to find work and support the family, but plagued by loneliness and depression, he commits suicide by jumping off a construction building. Katarina thus has to emigrate to Germany herself to find work, and meets an Italian man, Silvio, with whom she stays pregnant. He is unwilling to have a baby with her, so she has an abortion. She brings her son to Germany, but a sense of isolation from her homeland is slowly destroying her. Her grandparents hold a funeral for her when she returns dead in Herzegovina.

One of only four films directed by Slobodan Praljak, this "Gastarbeiter" social drama is a boring soap opera with too much empty walk and too little true ingenuity or something more that would engage the viewers throughout its overstretched running time of 100 minutes. Since one of the characters, Vinko, is eliminated fairly quickly, after some 20 minutes, it is not quite clear why his segment was not cut entirely to enable the movie to start right from the title heroine's emigration to Germany in order to find work abroad. The dialogues are predictable, sterile, humorless and lifeless, whereas the storyline is flat, without any richer stratification of events, yet one must acknowledge that the author gathered a surprisingly quality cast, ranging from Alma Prica up to always excellent Ivo Gregurevic, whereas there are some traces of truth and genuine sadness in the seemingly neverending cursed fate of the Yugoslav area, where every generation has to leave their family to find work in a foreign country, which in the end slowly consumes them all, obvious when Katarina says that she is "tired of life". It is interesting that one of the characters, Vinko, commits suicide, which is indicative since director Praljak followed suit when he himself spectacularly took his own life 18 years later at the ICTY.


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