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On the Other Side: A complex story of forgiveness

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- BERLIN 2016: Zrinko Ogresta's latest feature, which world-premiered in the Panorama section, is ostensibly about repentance and forgiveness, but actually offers a much wider array of ideas

Review

Croatian director Zrinko Ogresta's seventh feature film, On the Other Side [+see also:
trailer
film focus
interview: Tihana Lazovic
interview: Zrinko Ogresta
film profile
]
, which world-premiered in the Berlinale's Panorama section, is a carefully constructed and perfectly executed story ostensibly about repentance and forgiveness, but actually offering a much wider array of ideas.

Vesna (Ksenija Marinković,last seen in A Good Wife [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
) is a middle-aged visiting nurse in Zagreb. Her daughter Jadranka (Tihana Lazović, from The High Sun [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Dalibor Matanic
interview: Tihana Lazovic
film profile
]
) graduated from law school and is about to get married to Bozo (newcomer Toni Sestan), "a dork", according to her brother Vlado (Robert Budak,from Zagreb Cappuccino), who is married and has a small child, as well as a pregnant mistress.

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At the beginning of the film, Vesna gets a mysterious call at work. Soon we find out it is her husband Zarko (Serbian actor and co-producer of the film Lazar Ristovski,last seen in The Priest's Children [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Vinko Bresan
film profile
]
), who was a captain in the Yugoslav National Army when the war in Croatia started, and who decided to stay "on the other side". He ended up in The Hague and has just been released. The two haven't spoken for 20 years, and Vesna is initially dumbfounded by his call and refuses to talk.

But he calls again, asking about the children, and telling Vesna that he wants to see the whole family. This is also when we first get to see the character, who spends most of the time off screen. Vesna tells her children that their dad has called, and while Jadranka tries to show some understanding, Vlado is adamant that Zarko should have killed himself already. No wonder, as that is what his twin brother, Zoran, did at an unspecified time in the past.

Even as Vesna refuses to give in to Zarko's pleas to at least send him photos of herself and the kids, their painful history is catching up with the family. As Jadranka cannot find a job, Vesna asks for help from Vuletić (Alan Liverić, from Number 55 [+see also:
trailer
film focus
film profile
]
), a big shot in the Justice Department and the son of one of her patients. He is happy to help, but this job requires security checks… and her father's name is certainly not a recommendation for the Croatian Ministry.

But Vesna continues talking to Zarko and sparking up a new relationship with him, against her better judgement…

Ogresta was always both a visually creative and thorough filmmaker (as in his best-known films, Here and Behind the Glass [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Ivan Maloca
interview: Zrinko Ogresta
film profile
]
), but the level of attention paid to characters and storytelling in this film, together with co-writer and composer Mate Matišić, is rare, and not only in Balkan cinema. If not for the subject matter, this could easily have been a Scandinavian drama.

The most impressive of the actors is, of course, Marinković. The story belongs to her character, and she has built it in flesh and blood. Meanwhile, Ristovski, who is actually on screen for perhaps ten minutes in total, had a completely different task, but to go into more detail on this would be a major spoiler. Even the smallest parts are given to fantastic actors – for instance, veteran Mate Gulin (Letter to My Father) [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Damir Cucic
film profile
]
plays Vuletić's father. Lazović is already a star thanks to The High Sun,and Budak and Šestan are newcomers to watch closely.

Ogresta's directing is precise but dynamic, often putting obstacles such as windows and doors between camera and characters, in order to create a feeling of witnessing an event, rather than watching a film – and it is all masterfully shot by Branko Linta.In a film entitled On the Other Side,this approach adds not only to form, but to the substance itself.

Co-produced by Croatia's Interfilm and national broadcaster HRT, as well as Serbia's Zillion Film, On the Other Side is handled internationally by Cercamon.

photogallery

international title: On the Other Side
original title: S one straane
country: Croatia, Serbia
year: 2016
directed by: Zrinko Ogresta
screenplay: Zrinko Ogresta, Mate Matišić
cast: Lazar Ristovski, Tihana Lazović, Ksenija Marinković

main awards/selection

Berlinale 2016
Panorama
La Rochelle International Film Festival 2016 
Warsaw Film Festival 2016 
CinEast film festival 2016 
Arras Film Festival 206 
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