Sunday, January 14, 2018

Ministry of Love

Ministarstvo ljubavi; satire / drama, Croatia / Czech Republic, 2016; D: Pavo Marinković, S: Stjepan Perić, Dražen Kühn, Ecija Ojdanić, Olga Pakalović, Ksenija Marinković, Bojan Navojec, Alma Prica, Hristina Popović

It is recession. It order to implement austerity measures and reduce budget deficits, the Croatian government decides to establish a new department that would spy on widows from the Croatian War and take away their pensions if it turns out they got remarried. The two officials assigned to this ungrateful task are Krešo and Josip, who use various ploys in Dalmatia in order to find out if widows are still single or not. Krešo falls in love with one of the widows, Dunja, but she leaves him after she finds out she lost her pension due to his report. Disgusted by this work, and after finding out his wife cheated on him, Krešo quits and applies for a job as a biologist.

"Ministry of Love" caused quite a hype when certain Croatian nationalists wanted to ban the film, yet it is overall a refreshing satire that spoofs several Croatian patriotic myths, in this case how the Croatian government is more preoccupied with austerity and budget deficits than the costly legacy of the Croatian War, in this case the financing of war widows. The concept is fictional, yet its sharp observations about the government exploitation of its citizens and its meddling into their private lives are still easily identifiable, which causes several chuckles in the first half (most notably in the ploys Krešo uses to find out if the widows have found new partners in the meantime, presenting himself as an insurance salesman offering great deals for couples or a gay representative inside the house of a lesbian couple). Except for making fun of imaginary patriotism, the film also gives a commentary on modern, 21st century trends, most noticeably in the appearance of "unethical jobs" and job alienation (Krešo is a biologist who has been sent to work in the department that is outside his preferences, and even begins to get ashamed of it). Unfortunately, director Pavo Marinkovic seems to run out of ideas and inspiration fairly quickly, settling for a good, yet standard film with several forced dramatic moments in the overlong second half, as well as too much empty walk to camouflage that not much is going on until the rather sudden end.


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