Fest 2017
Lalaland of European film: there is no escape


The dominating thematic trends of European films – winners or losers, alike - screened not only at this year's FEST but at most European festivals, seem to be sense of not belonging, alienation, failure of communication, loss of family or societal ties, permeated by feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, maladjustment, aimlessness and futility, with frequent nihilistic or 'there is no escape' (non)closure. Could there be a greater irony for the populist 21st century of mass communication, fastest and highest reachability and accessibility, pervasive and intrusive exhibitionism, smart phones and other high-tech gadgets enabling perpetual 'sharing of most intimate moments', than to witness a complete breakdown of communication and emergence of all sorts of alternative/fake facts, as a symptom of "the age of post-truth"? It's not new or ground-breaking, of course, that such gloomy overtones should dominate European films (think of the pre-WW2 period or the 1960's anxieties), but the sheer quantity of similarly-themed or stylistically uniform films in one year is conspicuous, if not ostentatiously monolithic.

That corporate culture can break down whole countries and societies we've known for some time now, but in this year's films, we discover it breaks families too: some protagonists attempt to mend their broken ties through a grotesque farcical excess, as father and daughter do in the now awards-triumphant German Tony Erdmann; in Hungarian On Body and Soul, 2017 Berlin's Golden Bear winner, fitting in in the 21st century for the marginal ones, who have no clue about the existence of or access to arts or music ever created, nor do they use modern tech-devices – but they do, oddly, know how to use pornography websites - has become virtually impossible; in Greek Suntan, the attempt of a doctor from a small-but-hype fisherman's village to fit in with the laid back, happy-go-lucky, 'cool' (up to a point) group of young international nudist camp tourists results in a disastrous identity disintegration; in Croatian Ne gledaj mi u pijat (Quit staring at my plate) and Serbian Rekvijem za Gdju J (Requiem for Mrs. J.), the failure to communicate among all family members has become so deep-rooted that even a 'possible escape', no matter how self-destructive or life threatening, is a no-option.

It's more comfortable to maintain the status quo. In other words, in European films, even suicide fails, because, in the age of entropic fakeness, it would become the only purposeful act of utmost genuineness, and, therefore, impossible to complete. Ken Loach's I, Daniel Blake is the only exception among these films, as the protagonist's victimhood becomes the final poignant statement against the dehumanised capitalist system of 21st century's collective amnesia and alienation.


Kiril Serebrennikov's (M)uchenik: FEDEORA'S winner in main international competition

Based on German playwright Marius von Mayenburg's play Martyr, Kiril Serebrennikov's deftly entitled (M)uchenik, a pun in Russian and Slavic languages on both the martyr – "mučenik" and student – "učenik" (untranslatable into the English title Student), addresses a different kind of post-truth communication breakdown. A young, troubled teenager Venya (magnificently played by Pyotr  Skvorstsov, best actor award-winner in the main international competition at FEST 2017) in order to assert his independence reacts against the school establishment and his mother's authority not by typical adolescent rebelling, but by the most unexpected conservativism, which implies the return to the old, inarguably and universally accepted, texts of the Bible. Serebrennikov – best known for his 2012 Venice competition entry Betrayal, but with much less international appeal than, say, his compatriot Andrey Zvyagintsev – opens the film with a vertiginous six-minute shot of a heated argument between Venya and his financially struggling, atheist single mother (brilliant Julia Aug),

introducing in medias res the topic of religious fundamentalism: When his mother is notified by the school that Venya doesn't go to obligatory swimming classes, he defends himself by manically quoting Christian scriptures as universal, unchallengeable truths: he is outraged by the impudent girls' bikinis, who should bewearing one-piece bathing suites instead.

"I wish he collected stamps or jerked off all the time," moans Venya's mother feeling helpless by her uncontrollably changing son, looking directly at the camera in an incredibly self-referrential shot, as if desperately asking the audience for help. Bordering on farcical and grotesque, Venya is met with more sympathy than his frustrated mother from the school officials and teachers, mostly female, who react to him, if not in a baffling amusement, than certainly with maternal protectiveness, shielding him even against his own mother. Such fine narrative moments subtly unravel not only the impact of the popular manipulator but also the role of those who follow him applaudingly.

There is, however, one 'voice of reason', that of biology teacher Elena (passionate Victoria Isakova), who sees through this "pseudo-prophetic hysterics", as she terms it, and becomes the most fervent rational opponent of Veniamism. Venya challenges her as feverishly as he feels challenged by her evolution theory, denouncing it by disguising himself in a gorilla costume, then undressing and walking around the classroom naked, flashing his sex and inspiring a few girls, one in particular, but also one boy, Grigoriy (Aleksandr Gorchilin), who becomes his most devoted accomplice and, eventually and not surprisingly– his easiest prey.

As the teacher's and the pupil's mutual obsessions gallop in opposing mirror-like reflections, with Venya becoming more aggressive and manipulative - contrasted to Elena's understanding and scientifically analytical approach - the film gradually immerses the viewer into a pulsating, relentless debate on the 'objectivity of interpretations", simultaneously questioning institutional authorities – both scientific and religious. This thin divisive line is best summed up by Elena's disappointed boyfriend: "You're like a doctor snorting coke to test it. But you've become a junkie yourself". The ensuing classroom drama is conveyed sometimes through humourous clashes (background scenes of animal copulation as the headmistress censors the use of condoms during the biology class), sometimes by dramatic ironic symbolism, such as Venya's carrying a huge cross around the town, set to the soundtrack of metal industrial Slovenian band Laibach's "God Is God".

However, the author's goal is not to entertain or amuse. Symptomatically set in Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian district fraught with diverse geographical and political identities, these ambivalent and rigid Bible interpretations by a self-taught hormonal teenager and his ensuing right-wing militant extremism on feminism, homosexuality and Judaism could occur anywhere in the world, as they echo today's populist, fascist and hate-mongering discourse, normalised and legitimised globally.

Serebrennikov's acrobatic vertiginous pace, conveyed through long, carefully mise-en-scèned shots and exquisite Vladislav Opelyants' cinematography, always seems to make a cautionary ideological statement but leaves many questions unanswered, and although the overly theatrical reliance on endless, unnecessarily didactic, quotes of the Bible passages, redundantly shown in on-screen titles, somewhat undermines the otherwise well-balanced script and rich visual style, (M)uchenik, in its ideological and aesthetic audacity, is a film entitled to a much wider international festival circuit.

Maja Bogojević


45. FEST Belgrade 2017
Beogradski pobjednik za najbolji film:
NE GLEDAJ MI U TANJIR, (režija: Hana Jušić, Hrvatska / Danska)

Ostale nagrade Glavnog takmičarskog programa:
Nagrada žirija: HARTSTON (reditelj Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsona), Danska / Island
Najbolja režija: (M)UČENIK (reditelj Kiril Serebrenikova), Rusija
Najbolji scenario: TOPLOTNI UDAR (reditelj Argiris Papadimitropulosa), Grčka / Nemačka
Najbolja ženska uloga: ARIJANA ČULINA za film NE GLEDAJ MI U PIJAT (u režiji Hane Jušić), Hrvatska / Danska
Najbolja muška uloga: PYOTR SKVORTSOV za film (M)UČENIK, Rusija
Najbolji debi: HARTSTON (u režiji Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsona), Danska / Island
Nagrade žirija „FEDEORA", Federacije filmskih kritičara iz Evrope i mediteranskih zemalja, dodjielio je žiri u sledećem sastavu: Radovan Holub, Maja Bogojević, Tomislav Šakić.
Nagrada za najbolji film u glavnom takmičarskom programu: (M)UČENIK - REŽIJA: KIRILL SEREBRENNIKOV
Nagrada za najbolji film u domaćoj selekciji: DNEVNIK MAŠINOVOĐE - REŽIJA: MILOŠ RADOVIĆ


Drugi takmičarski program ovogodišnjeg FEST-a je PROGRAM GRANICE, u kojem je prikazano je 8 subverzivnih filmova iz Južne Koreje, Austrije, Poljske, Francuske, Italije, Irana, Meksika i Sjedinjenih Američkih Država.
NIN-ova nagrada za najbolji film u kategoriji Granice:
"ROKO" (u režiji rediteljskog dvojca Tjerija Demezijera i Albana Terlea)

Specijalna nagrada žirija Granice:
„U SENKAMA" (u režiji iranskog reditelja Babaka Anvarija)

Politikina nagrada "Milutin Čolić":
"REKVIJEM ZA GOSPOĐU J.", reditelj Bojan Vuletić

Srpski film:
Nagrada za najbolji film, režiju i scenario "REKVIJEM ZA GOSPOĐU J.", reditelj Bojan Vuletić
NAGRADA KRITIČARA "Nebojša Đukelić" iz Fonda "Nebojša Đukelić" za najbolji film iz regiona.
NOĆNI ŽIVOT, reditelj Damjaa Kozole
Nagrada publike: PATERSON, reditelj Jim Jarmush


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