You Carry Me: An audacious debut in three acts
by Vladan Petkovic
- Ivona Juka's first feature film is a brave attempt at non-linear storytelling - for better and worse
Croatian writer-director Ivona Juka - best known internationally as one of the directors of the omnibus film Some Other Stories [+see also:
film profile] and known locally for the excellent prison documentary Facing the Day (2006) - struggled financially for six years to make her debut feature film. The title in focus, You Carry Me [+see also:
interview: Ivona Juka
film profile], which had its world premiere in Karlovy Vary's East of the West competition, shows both the ambition and the problems typical for first films, throughout its 155-minute running time.
The non-linear narrative structure that Juka employs is reminiscent of early works by Alejandro Gonzáles Ińárritu and Guillermo Arriaga. The film tells three loosely connected stories that intertwine in the workplace of three characters – namely a soap-opera set.
The film opens with ten-year-old Dora (Helena Beljan, who won the Best Debutant Award at the Pula Film Festival), repeating insulting lines by FC Dinamo Zagreb's controversial manager Zdravko Mamić. She is the daughter of Vedran (non-professional actor Goran Hajduković, a former leader of Bad Blue Boys, the football club's infamous fan group), a criminal just out of jail, and Lidija (Nataša Janjić, from Vegetarian Cannibal [+see also:
film profile]), a make-up artist on the TV show. The two constantly fight about Dora and her younger brother, about Vedran's continued criminal activities and about Lidija's infidelity.
Ives (Lana Barić, last seen in The Reaper [+see also:
interview: Zvonimir Jurić
film profile]), a director for the TV series, has to take care of her senile father (legendary Serbian actor Voja Brajović). She is always on the edge and snaps without any obvious reason in several situations.
Finally, Nataša (Nataša Dorčić, from Just Between Us [+see also:
film profile]) is the head producer of the show and has the most on her hands: she is five months pregnant, has a terminal disease, and struggles with a cheating husband (Sebastian Cavazza, known from Halima's Path) and his ex-wife's health problems, as well as with her own daddy issues. Near the end of the film, she even pursues a bizarre affair that would be unfair to reveal here.
On paper, the narrative’s structure makes sense; however, in the film, the triptych’s layers only overlap through tangential connections. Ives' story has the most integrity, although it is often over-sentimental. In Dora’s story, the degree of importance of the characters is unclear. By the logic of the other two segments, Lidija should be in the centre, but the director treats Dora as the protagonist, while Hajduković actually steals the show. Meanwhile, Nataša's digresses into soap-opera territory, for which the setting might serve as a justification (as the director points out in her interview with Cineuropa, here).
On the plus side, this is an audacious debut from the first-time filmmaker who gave herself a tough task, and it features several emotionally powerful scenes and interesting solutions, including parallel editing and a fun-though-clunky music montage. The score by cult Italian musician Teho Teardo is magnificent (though sometimes over-used), and the picture (shot by Mario Oljača and coloured by Danish expert Norman Nisbet) is clear and consistent, supplementing the narrative where it lacks coherence.