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Review: Lines


- Forget the sex; in her Ji.hlava winner, Barbora Sliepková finds tenderness in the city

Review: Lines

Recently named the winner of the Opus Bonum competition at the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival, where it celebrated its world premiere, Barbora Sliepková’s Lines [+see also:
interview: Barbora Sliepková
film profile
does feature sentences like: “I learned how to wander through the days and endure the unbearable emptiness.” And yet, somehow, it doesn’t have one ounce of pretentiousness about it. That’s mostly because the debuting Slovak director’s exploration of Bratislava, constantly rebuilt and reconstructed, and steadily growing, is warm and funny, introducing the kind of universe where pedestrian-crossing sounds can be described as “andante” instead of just damn annoying.

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It’s a whimsical tale, and despite its sombre, black-and-white cinematography, Amélie Poulain could easily have popped up here somewhere as well, no problem. Instead, Sliepková focuses on Danko, walking around his city and barely recognising it any more, as he shares with his dog. She also homes in on all the workers who keep it operating yet remain largely out of sight, as if to make people believe the city just handles all of its daily affairs on its own. They draw white lines on the streets, put up signs or renovate balconies, even in searing heat, and get understandably frustrated when someone steps in their work before it has had time to set, oblivious to the techniques that were lovingly applied.

Where most urban tales focus on isolation, here, people do actually interact – maybe it’s just the Bratislava way. They complain about the temperature and share cigarettes with strangers, or come up to blind singers on the street to have a chat and ask for a tune. Sliepková seems to be choosing her protagonists freely, just because they interest her: like a young artist drawing faces of men on a piece of bread for an upcoming exhibition. Dealing with her lack of a father figure, she also shares a penchant for unusual pets with her mother, as they are shown tending to a snail and a chameleon.

Obviously, there is always something melancholic about looking at a place that used to be so familiar, only to realise that “these buildings weren’t here before”. The retro-looking black and white applied feels almost ironic – in big cities, the past doesn’t seem to matter that much, not when entire edifices seemingly appear out of nowhere and bouts of nostalgia are drowned out by the constant noise of construction works. But people adapt: that’s what they do, hearing musical tempos in what could otherwise drive them crazy. Or maybe, again, it’s just the Bratislava way.

Produced by Slovak outfit Hitchhiker Cinema, Lines was co-produced by Soňa Horváthová and Nazarij Kľujev.

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