Crossing invisible borders
by Vladan Petkovic
- Bobo Jelcic’s feature debut is a deep and multi-layered portrait of a man and a city, boosted by tour-de-force performance of Bogdan Diklic.
The first feature film by Croatian director Bobo Jelcic, A Stranger [+see also:
interview: Bobo Jelcic
film profile], had its world premiere in the Forum section of the Berlinale. This subtle and multi-layered drama speaks volumes of life in the deeply divided city of Mostar through the amazing performance of Serbian actor Bogdan Diklic.
Diklic (veteran of 130 films, most recently seen in Night Boats [+see also:
interview: Igor Mirković
film profile]) plays Slavko, a man in his 60s who lives with his wife (Nada Djurevska) in the Croatian part of the city Mostar in Herzegovina, which is, 15 years after the Bosnian war, still divided into the Bosniak (Muslim) and Croatian (Catholic) parts. It is not easy to cross into the other part of the city- the invisible psychological barrier on the Neretva river is, for mostpeople, as effective as barbed wire.
Slavko’s old Muslim friend dies at the very beginning of the film, and he is worried about the effect his attendance at the funeral will have in the Croatian community. Slavko looks constantly troubled, Diklic plays him as a man who carries a huge burden on his shoulders. This also registers in the film as a general atmosphere in the city, where everybody seems to get along but there is a high tension simmering behind the seemingly normal everyday activities.
The plot is very basic and there is hardly anything actually “happening”. But Diklic’s performance is simultaneously so subtly nuanced and intense that it both vividly illustrates the life in the city and the tumultuous psychological state of a man living in constant anxiety- whether based on real circumstances or the way he perceives his socially conditioned situation.
The crucial tool which Jelcic uses to build Slavko’s world is Erol Zubcevic’s camera. It is always hand-held and acts as a curious passer-by, often shooting the backs of characters’ heads or examining the lines on their faces, and sometimes lingering on a shot a few seconds after a character has left it.