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BLACK NIGHTS 2019 First Feature Competition

Review: Mater


- First-time director Jure Pavlović proves that there is always room for one more mother-daughter psychological drama

Review: Mater
Daria Lorenc-Flatz in Mater

Mater [+see also:
interview: Jure Pavlović
film profile
by Jure Pavlović, which is playing in the First Feature Competition at Tallinn Black Nights, explores the familiar theme of the mother-daughter relationship, a weight that offspring will carry throughout their adult life like heavy, oversized baggage.

Coming home is never an easy process, even for someone who was not in the Vietnam War, but rather voluntarily emigrated to Germany. Forty-something Croatian woman Jasna (Daria Lorenc-Flatz) started a life in a foreign country, and has a loving husband and two pre-teen kids there. She returns to visit her mother, Anka (Neva Rošić), who, as it turns out, has only months to live. She was never a beloved mum to her kids, but more of a “Mommie Dearest” type, like one of those 1940s Hollywood stars. Jasna and her late brother Vlado left home as soon as they could, with their emotional wounds stitched up and covered, but not properly healed. The daughter comes back, cares for her mother and helps her in her daily chores, as well as in a legal dispute with her new neighbours over a scrap of land. Jasna also meets her childhood friends and distant relatives, who inadvertently push her further down memory lane. A confrontation with the past is just around the corner, as the tension between Jasna and Anka starts rising.

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The theme of parents being a burden for their children is explored and exploited very often by cinema. What makes Mater stand out is director Pavlović’s focus on the character of Jasna. The story is told from her point of view, and in the opening sequence, we literally follow her as she is walking down a dark street to reach her childhood home. DoP Jana Plecas’ camera never leaves Jana, the tight frames deftly conveying the feeling of emotional claustrophobia that is constantly haunting her. Until the very end of the film, we only see glimpses of Anka’s face, but she is constantly present in the background, exerting a palpable pressure. Pavlović and Plecas also create tension by placing objects and supporting characters either on the border of the frame or just outside of it. Just like Jana’s childhood memories, they’re barely visible but can easily come back to the centre of our focus – if one is willing to turn one’s head.

Mater is a joint effort between Croatia, Serbia, France, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was produced by Sekvenca, Wake Up Films and Les Productions de l'Oeil Sauvage, and the producers are Bojan Kanjera, Jure Pavlović and Biljana Tutorov. Syndicado is in charge of its world sales.

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