Thursday, January 4, 2018

Calvary

Kalvarija; drama / grotesque, Croatia, 1996; D: Zvonimir Maycug, S: Miran Javorović, Mato Pavelić, Vedrana Likan, Roswitha Mir, Dubravko Sidor

Under the pretext of writing an article about a village, a journalist travels from Zagreb to Desinić, to meet Slavko, his secret gay lover. Slavko lives in the Desinić castle, but earns his money by playing a harmonica. He is also in an unhappy marriage with his wife, yet they have two kids. The journalist sleeps with Slavko's daughter, claiming he loves her because he loves him, as well, much to Slavko's dismay. When the aunt catches Slavko and the journalist naked in bed, she dies from a heart attack. The journalist is engaged to the daughter, but her ex-fiance, a butcher, is jealous. The butcher stabs and kills someone in the journalist's bed, but neglects that he actually killed Slavko's son, Ivan, instead, under the blanket. The whole village blames the journalist and starts a hunt for him, armed with guns. Slavko wants to shoot the journalist, but stops when he finds out that his daughter is pregnant. The journalist and Slavko make up, while the mother manages to revive Ivan by praying to the cross.

Zvonimir Maycug's third film ultimately turned out to be his last one, since the distributors refused to distribute the movie in cinemas, which lead to the director's bankruptcy and a decision to never direct again. That's a pity, because even though "Calvary" is a weak achievement, it is nonetheless one of the most bizarre movies of all time, a one that blends a secret gay relationship, a ghost in the castle, a gluttonous woman eating as much as she can, J. Belushi and "Animal House" style as well as a "Rambo" like action finale in which the villagers even use a bazooka (!) to shoot at the journalist, causing a car and a hut to literally explode, which secured the film cult status: not since Takeuchi's "Wild Zero" was there ever such an insane "coming out" representation of a story that does not care about any rules, but just to serve its author's wishes. The levels of madness and trash are almost unbelievable to fathom, which is why this is a 'guilty pleasure' that abounds with unintentional humor.

One of the most demented sequences, with intentional humor, is when Slavko and the journalist are naked in bed, and the journalist jokingly announces: "I predict that your wife is going to enter this room soon and see us naked in bed, which will cause her to kill us with a chainsaw!" Ironically, just a few minutes later, someone indeed enters the bedroom, but it is the aunt, and she is carrying a knife, with the intent to truly kill them - but dies herself from a heart attack - with the nude journalist joking: "She died the way she always wished from God: by seeing male genitals!" The storyline just keeps listing unnecessary details and side characters, which do not play any role later on in the film. What was the purpose of the aunt praying to Veronika Desinić, and the latter's ghost to show up in a wedding dress, only for the ghost to not do nothing later on? What was the point of the overweight woman who eats in the tavern, if she does not play any role later on? What was the point of a woman who was infatuated with the journalist ("Will I get promoted?" - "Only over my naked body!") at the diner, if she does not play any role later on? Or the teddy bear sequence? It is curious how there is no billing during the closing credits, and thus Slavko is the only character with a name, while for all the others, it is unknown who plays whom among all these nameless characters. If there is one aspect on which "Calvary" works, it is a commentary on the religious bigotry, and through it fundamentalism and fanaticism of any shape, in this small community that refuses to accept people who are different. As ludicrous and exaggerated as all this is, there are some truths about this theme of intolerance. Likewise, the the locations are exquisite, since Slavko's family lives inside the Desinic castle. "Calvary" is a batty film that takes itself way too seriously, yet its enthusiasm and flaws are somehow strangely appealing.

Grade;+

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