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Review: Estrellita

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Music and redemption


- Metod Pevec had made a moral fable on pain and reconciliation, in a society that seems fascinated with a fledgling capitalism that undermines the harmony of human relationships

Review: Estrellita

Estrellita [+see also:
film focus
interview: Danijel Hočevar
interview: Metod Pevec
interview: Nerina Kocjančič
film profile
, the first Slovenian film released in 2008, hit six theatres last Friday after its recent Italian premiere at the Trieste Film Festival, where it received lengthy applause and came in second for the Audience Award.

It was made by Metod Pevec, an actor and writer who turned to directing in 1995 with Carmen (based on his eponymous novel) and achieved international acclaim for his follow-up film Beneath Her Window, which screened in 2003 at Karlovy Vary and over 30 other international festivals and was distributed in Switzerland as well. His new film is once again crossing borders and will be released in Austria and Germany as soon as dubbing is completed.

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Estrellita begins with the last concert of violin virtuoso Mihael Fabiani. The curtain closes at the end of the musical piece and opens an instant later to reveal the musician’s lifeless body to the public. Mihael is dead, in that grey area between stage and backstage, the public and the private, the latter in which the story unfolds.

His pianist wife Dora, who lived in the shadow of his genius, thought she knew him. Yet at the cemetery, during a tearless funeral (no one cries: not his friends, nor his friends, nor the orchestra, which plays Bach for the occasion), she sees only one truly pained person: Amir, a Bosnian boy who claims to have played with her husband in several dives.

Dora listens to him and impressed by his talent decides to help him, gifting Amir her husband’s violin and making him study with a teacher who, she discovers, had been Mihael’s lover for years. Dora’s son, however, is not pleased with the arrangement. For Julian, the violin is first and foremost a financial object, and he wants to sell it for money or exchange it for sexual favours from Amir’s mother.

Careful not to fall into the dividing everything into black and white, Pevec (who scripted the film with Gareth Jones and Abdulah Sidran, the writer of Emir Kusturica’s first films) infuses all the characters with humanity, bringing them closer to audiences. The blame – if blame is the right word in a society that seems fascinated with a fledgling capitalism already invasive enough to undermine the harmony of human relationships – traverses all generations and social classes (Amir’s alcoholic father, Dora’s value-less son), but in the end redemption, forgiveness and reconciliation prevail. Pain does not divide and sadness is the road to purification.

Overall, however, the film suffers from this step towards moral fable and an overly consolatory feel. And it never fully flushes out the plot’s most bizarre idea: the presence of the dead man who hovers over the story and who almost subversively manifests himself by knocking over notebooks and signs. And clichés.


international title: Estrellita
original title: Estrellita
country: Slovenia, Germany, Bosnia and Herzegovina
year: 2006
directed by: Metod Pevec
screenplay: Metod Pevec
cast: Silva Čušin, Tadej Troha, Karin Komljanec, Marko Kovačević, Senad Bašić, Mediha Musliović, Ana Temeljotov

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