Review: Eight Chapters
- Eight Croatian filmmakers have teamed up to execute the idea of producer Tamara Puizina and tell of the experiences of eight women from different generations
Sometimes the title completely gives away the nature of a film. That is certainly the case with Eight Chapters, an eight-part omnibus documentary written and directed by as many different Croatian filmmakers, which has just premiered in the regional competition of ZagrebDox. All of the short stories revolve around more or less the same topic (or similar topics) – the female experience (or different female experiences) – only framed and coded in varying ways depending on the generation of the individual protagonists. The whole concept was envisioned by film production student Tamara Puizina, from the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb.
The opening chapter (helmed by Jasmina Beširović) follows five-year-old Tila as she learns to ride a bicycle. The ironic thing here is that the female experience starts with male mentorship: her uncle is the one teaching her. The same kind of irony continues in the second chapter (directed by Tonći Gaćina), in which we follow Jana, a swimming champion in her teens (coached by a man, of course) who wrestles with dichotomies like sports vs school, and whether she could be into sports and still be considered “girly”.
That angle disappears as the protagonists get older and more individualistic in the subsequent chapters. We get to see Tina preparing for the entrance exam for Photography Studies in Dalija Dozet’s third chapter. Chapter four (directed by Anja Koprivšek) follows Ana Marija, who wants to prove herself as an actress. The following segment (helmed by Petar Vukičević) is centred on Dunja, who is struggling with depression. In Judita Gamulin’s chapter six, we get to see Nela, an accomplished career woman and author, as she leads a support group for young mothers. The retired Mirjana is the protagonist of Katarina Lukec’s seventh section, while the film is rounded off by Tiha K Gudac’s chapter eight, in which we follow elderly painter Ljerka.
The concept seems bulletproof in its simplicity, but the question is whether it is really that robust, since there is no room for in-depth development of the individual stories, so the film only superficially scratches the surface of the topics it broaches. Also, it is not clear if certain things, like the fact that none of the protagonists are ever seen in the company of their immediate family members, are by design or are just coincidence.
The filmmakers certainly did not have a great deal of freedom in their general approach to the subjects, owing to the limited on-screen time at their disposal. Only Jasmina Beširović, in the first chapter, opts for an observational approach, while the others plumped for portrait interviews with the bonus of off-screen narration by the protagonists. However, some opportunities for additional polish and diversity were seized, whether in the use of Zvjezdan Ružić’s original score or music coming from other sources, the photographic material that appears in some of the stories, or even a certain reflexive lyricism. Other scenes feature quite a moody atmosphere. The use of the same cinematographer (Raul Brzić) for all of the chapters contributes to a better consistency of the film as a whole, while the editing by Marta Bregeš and Maja Predrijevac is smooth enough to make Eight Chapters slightly better than the simple sum of its individual parts.
Eight Chapters is a Croatian production by the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb and was supported by the Croatian Audiovisual Centre.
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