No one’s a prophet in Patria
by Camillo De Marco
- Belgradian director Oleg Novković’s film, which was shown in competition at the Trieste Film Festival, is the second in a trilogy on the “lost generation” of the countries of former Yugoslavia
Patria [+see also:
film profile] opens with the black and white image of an Easter banquet in Kosovo, just before the war of 1996. Sat at the lavishly decked table on the lawn is a large family, made up of parents, siblings, children, grandchildren and brothers and sisters-in-law, along with neighbours, presumably Muslims. Some time later, the madness of the nationalist armed struggle and ethnic cleansing begins. We see one of the members of that family return home in uniform and, after slaughtering the entire family, head over to the neighbours’ house, gun in hand.
Oleg Novković is one of the most well known filmmakers in Belgrade, with four feature films and 30 documentaries under his belt. Patria is the second part of a trilogy he began in 2010 with White, White World [+see also:
film profile] on the "lost generation" of the countries of former Yugoslavia. Whilst White, White World was put together like a modern Greek tragedy, Patria is structured like an individual and collective attempt to emerge from an ordeal, from what Genesis in the Bible calls Jacob’s fight with God. A fight with no holds barred. A fight in which injustices become unbearable, and life loses all direction and meaning.
The topic is difficult to understand for those with no direct experience of the barbarities, atrocities and inhumanity of the Balkan conflict, although the subject has (dramatically) become almost a genre in itself in European film, with significant contributions from No Man’s Land [+see also:
film profile], Before the Rain and Underground to the very recent The High Sun [+see also:
interview: Dalibor Matanic
interview: Tihana Lazovic
film profile] and A Perfect Day [+see also:
interview: Fernando León de Aranoa
film profile]. The screenplay for Patria, which was written by the director’s partner, Milena Markovic, opts for an evocative religious metaphor, in which the symbolic sacrificial lamb stands out. Jova (Vuk Kostić), who we meet at the beginning of the film, is now a war veteran who, after withdrawing to a convent, returns to the real world, still searching for God. His ex-wife Maca (Nada Šargin) lost her child during the civil war and hates those who don’t deserve to have children. Maca seeks redemption through prayer, whilst Jova believes he has found God in a young autistic girl.
(Translated from Italian)