Friday, November 16, 2007

Do You Remember Dolly Bell?

Sjećaš li se Dolly Bell?; tragicomedy, BiH / Serbia, 1981; D: Emir Kusturica, S: Slavko Štimac, Slobodan Aligrudić, Mira Banjac, Liljana Blagojević, Jasmin Celo, Mirsad Žulić, Ismet Delahmet, Jovanka Paripović

Sarajevo. A man in the center for culture recommends his colleagues to organize an orchestra in order to reduce teenage delinquency. At the same time, Dino is a day-dreaming teenager obsessed with hypnosis, living in a small apartment with his father, a die hard communist, mother, two brothers and a little sister. One evening, the shady Braco orders him to hide a woman, Dolly Bell, in his dove cot. Even though she flirts with him, Dino doesn't think much of it and is more preoccupied with his older brother leaving for Skopje and his father for a hospital because of a deadly lung disease. After Braco picks up Dolly, Dino finds out she is a prostitute. He loses his virginity with her and even starts a fight with Braco who slapped her, but loses the battle. The father dies and the family moves out.

Emir Kusturica made his feature length debut with the opulent humorous drama "Do You Remember Dolly Bell?", compared to his later Felliniesque phase a very sustained and gentle coming-of-age film that mixes gentle and cruel moments, showing a lot of sensibility towards misunderstood youngsters and a dazzling, invisible directorial style. Even if the simple plot about the maturing of the teenage protagonists Dino (excellent Slavko Štimac) isn't filled with autobiographical elements, it's so real it seems it is, because many details in it have a very specific aroma. Kusturica creates a very fine insight into Bosnian mentality, even though some may complain he needlessly traverses into their negative, backward side. The relationship between Dino and his dad is developed wonderfully, especially towards the end where the youngster is reading him a pseudo scientific esoteric book he finds fascinating, mentioning such over-the-top bizarre ideas like the one that the advanced man kind should in the future "get rid of the Indian ocean in order to create a fertile valley that could be a breadbasket for 146 billion people" and "allow a lighter Earth to move away 300 million miles from the Sun, reduce it's gravity and thus establish people to grow the size of the Titans", but the real highlight of the film is actually the heroine from the title, Dolly Bell, who works so well that it's almost a pity she only appears in a subplot, not in the main plot of the story.

Namely, she hides in Dino's dove cot and at first seems to have little or no purpose to the plot, except for some cute little "naughty" moments, like the one where she strips topless and washes herself while the shy Dino is pouring water for her and keeps his head turned away due to his timidness, but she finds that amusing and even "tantalizes" him by splashing him with the water. Yet, it later turns out she is a prostitute which gives another dimension to the story, especially since Dino falls in love with her and wants to free her. Sadly, the author didn't resolve that situation, which was left open and vague, almost daring some angry viewers to really ask Dino at the end: "Do you remember Dolly Bell?" Still, despite that lack of conclusion, it's a really fine film because Kusturica has talent.


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