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Mother

Review

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Mother: A cinematic poem of mother and daughter

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- Slovenian director Vlado Skafar returns to Rotterdam with Mother, the follow-up to 2010's Dad

Review

Vlado Skafar is a unique figure in Slovenian cinema. A director, writer and co-founder of the Slovenian Cinematheque and the International Film Festival Kino Otok in Izola, a cinephile’s paradise with uncompromising programming and impressive open-air screenings, his feature-length films Letters to a Child (Rotterdam 2009) and Dad [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Vlado Škafar
interview: Vlado Škafar
film profile
]
(Venice Critics’ Week 2010) possess a singular beauty, and a poetic approach that combines documentary and fiction to maximum effect.

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Such is also the case with his new film, Mother [+see also:
trailer
film focus
interview: Vlado Škafar
film profile
]
, which has just world-premiered in Rotterdam's Bright Future section. While Dad told the story of a father and son, here we have a mother (Nataša Tič Ralijan) and her daughter (Vida Rucli). The middle-aged, but youthful, mum (complete with short hair and Dr Martens shoes) brings her daughter, who is in her late teens or early twenties, to an old rural house in the hills and locks her up in a room.  

Next, the mother is talking to a priest, who explains various ways of fighting addiction, and soon we enter a commune, where about ten young people are engaged in agricultural activities, music workshops and playing volleyball… We hear some of their confessions, clearly a documentary part of the film, and finally we get to see the daughter properly. 

While the first hour of the film is totally dedicated to the mother, the last 20 minutes show us the situation from the daughter's perspective. In a very beautifully executed way, through symbolic actions, she shows how she feels about herself and what she is trying to achieve. 

However, Skafar does not refrain from using more direct tools, such as titles slowly fading in and out on the screen, describing thoughts or feelings. A particularly telling one is: "Now I know why mother likes flowers. She wants things to grow. But her own way."

But the very basic plot is not the point of the film. This is not a story about addiction or perseverance; it is about how parents and children perceive and influence each other. There is no screenplay per se – actually, the credits say: "Inspired by the writings of Jelena Maksimović, Vida Rucli, Nataša Tič Ralijan, Gabriella Ferrari, Margita Stefanović, JW Goethe and Lily Novy."

Maksimović is a Serbian editor whose credits include The Bridges of Sarajevo [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
and the upcoming Berlinale Forum title Depth Two [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, who edited the film together with Škafar. Stefanović was a legendary Serbian keyboard player who died in 2002, also known for a years-long heroin addiction, while Novy was one of Slovenia's most prominent poets. Ferrari plays (or perhaps actually is?) a music therapist in the commune.

While the tone of the film is quiet and lyrical, very similar to that of Dad, it uses a lot of different music, ranging from church music-inspired compositions by Vladimir Godar that rely heavily on female choirs, to Karen Dalton's “Ribbon Bow”. These go perfectly together with the smoothly gliding camerawork by Marko Brdar (Dad) and the slow editing pace. Indeed, the two films are perfect companions, and hopefully there will be an opportunity for a wonderfully inspiring double bill, at least at some future festivals.

Mother is a co-production by Slovenia's Gustav Film, Italy's Transmedia and Bosnia's SCCA/Pro.ba. The international rights are available. 

photogallery

international title: Mother
original title: Mama
country: Slovenia, Italy
year: 2016
directed by: Vlado Škafar
screenplay: Vlado Škafar
cast: Nataša Tič Ralijan, Vida Rucli, Gabriella Ferrari, Pierluigi Di Piazza

main awards/selection

International Film Festival Rotterdam 2016 
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