The Disobedient: longing, love and the search for freedom
by Vladan Petkovic
- Mina Djukić’s debut features a strong acting duo and magnificent cinematography
Serbian director Mina Djukić’s debut feature, The Disobedient [+see also:
film profile], premiered in Sundance's World Cinema Dramatic Competition, prior to participating in Rotterdam's Bright Future section. Recently, it won Best Film in the Balkan Competition of the Prishtina International Film Festival, and the film's lead, Hana Selimović, was crowned Best Actress.
The film opens with simulated Super 8 footage of a boy and a girl playing in a village in Vojvodina (the flatlands in the north of Serbia, between Belgrade and the border with Hungary). The nostalgia-inducing nature of the images sets the scene for the film, which deals with the search for freedom, love and the longing of two late bloomers.
Next up on screen, Leni (Selimović, from White White World [+see also:
film profile]), an attractive and quirky 24-year-old, finally gets to see her childhood best friend, Lazar (Mladen Sovilj), after years of them being apart, as he comes home for his father's funeral after studying abroad.
Leni is pregnant and restless, feeling stuck working in her parents' pharmacy, and immediately hits the road with Lazar. They wander around sun-bathed flatlands on bicycles, often engaging in childish behaviour, such as intentionally annoying people at a farmers' market or crashing a wedding. But their antics feel neither annoying nor pointless because of the way the characters and their relationship are treated.
There is an obvious affection between them, which has not disappeared over the many years of separation, but has perhaps even been strengthened by Leni's longing. Lazar is a little harder to read, although he seems to be the one who is more down to earth, but the fact that he had not called his friend for three years can be interpreted in various ways. The nature of their relationship is not easy to pin down: they are very close, but there is also a certain kind of animosity between them; also, a sexual tension is present, but it is more simmering behind their display of feelings than it is at the forefront of the film.
The atmosphere is strongly coloured with nostalgia: children's songs and old Yugoslav covers of ‘50s and ‘60s pop songs on the soundtrack, or hummed by Leni and Lazar; the intermittent appearance of an on-screen narrator who speaks directly to the audience, played by Minja Subota, the legendary host of an ‘80s children's TV show; Djordje Arambašić's magnificent cinematography, which virtually evokes the smell of hay, unmowed grass and watermelons cooled in a brook; and the couple's bonding with a boy of the age they used to be when they were first childhood soul mates. All of this points to a yearning for a happier, simpler time, when personal freedom was only limited by what parents told you to do or what not to do.
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