At Hostar: An internet phenomenon that made for a wildly successful feature film
by Tina Poglajen
- Luka Marčetič's independent, zero-budget satire on provincial life is proving to be immensely popular with Slovenian audiences
The Slovenian provincial satire At Hostar [+see also:
film profile] by Luka Marčetič started out as a joke – an internet joke, to be precise, which, over time, grew into an internet phenomenon. At one point, the loosely connected sketches of the web-series had one million viewers on YouTube – about half of the country’s population. Dejan Krupić and Goran Hrvaćanin courted two of the country’s major television stations to adapt it for TV, and upon being rejected by both, they decided to make an independent, zero-budget feature film. In an unexpected turn of events, the film At Hostar became immensely popular with Slovenian cinemagoers: for the fifth week running, it has ranked first at the box office, selling almost 150,000 admissions – a huge number for a country with a population of two million – and could perhaps even be the first Slovenian film to make a profit (since it is rare for there to be high enough numbers of domestic cinema admissions to allow for covering the cost of a feature film).
The movie’s unique production story translates into an anomalous narrative as well: apart from being a comedy, which in Slovenian cinema seems to be a somewhat endangered species, At Hostar is a satire on Slovenian provincial life, its small-mindedness, insularity, prejudice and fear of the new and the foreign – and its simultaneous striving for ignorant and outdated ideals of prestige and high class. Set in a caricature of a village in the Slovenian region of Upper Carniola, amidst the staff of a shabby hotel who rebel against a takeover by a menacing Croatian businessman, At Hostar also shuns the conventions of typical Slovenian cinema with its language, which (even if it is a caricature as well) is as far removed from the dominant, “standard”, Ljubljana-based speech as possible, and is entertaining in itself with its gaudy, even preposterous mix of languages, local dialect(s), jargon and pure invention.
While perhaps not bringing anything groundbreaking to the table in terms of social satire, At Hostar is nevertheless a particular achievement in terms of the cinema of Slovenia. Directed by Marčetič, whose vlogs and web-series have been YouTube sensations in their own right, At Hostar barely reveals its lack of budget by maintaining a high standard of technical quality throughout the film, proving that Slovenian independent filmmaking could be a promising starting point to revitalise national cinema.