Final romantic performance
Main program- out of competition, Besa by Srdan Karanović
Film „Besa”, written and directed by: Srdan Karanovic, cast: Iva Krajnc, Miki Manojlovic, Radivoje Rasa Bukvic, Nebojsa Dugalic, Ana Kostovska…
Duration: 100 minutes, production: Serbia-Croatia- Slovenia
“The Prague students” don’t give in. Fortunately, they exist, they are active and playful, they have a lot to share with us. Otherwise, we would start forgetting what those true, core values of film and film art really are about.
Srdan Karanovic, scriptwriter, director and pedagogue, is here to remind us of those values with his film Besa, a subtle intimist drama, a delicate romantic story set in World War I.
Besa is a beautiful film. Romantic and elegiac, above all humane. Archaic, just as the time in which the plot is set is archaic. Masterly directed. On the one hand – dramaturgically formed and firm as a rock, and on the other – airy and thin like the finest lace because of extreme attention to details invisible to the naked eye. With a sense of good taste and measure, consistency in sticking to the director’s concept, precise work with actors, steady pace and rhythm, Karanović also demonstrates an exquisite sense of unity of style. He is immersed in the most delicate interpersonal relations and the story which can touch even the toughest ones and which we can believe.
His protagonists are Lea (Iva Krajnc) – a Slovenian girl with a talent for music, rhythmics and a dance teacher married to Serb Filip (Nebojsa Dugalic) whom she met while studying in Vienna and because of whom she accepted the Orthodox creed and came to a village school in Serbia, and Azem (Miki Manojlovic) – a middle-aged Albanian with a huge family, a hard-working janitor sparing of words.
For uneducated village people, right before World War I, both of them are strangers they don’t trust and therefore gossip about. Lea as an “Austro-Hungarian”, their hated enemy, whose habits, such as reading and listening to opera on the gramophone – the technological wonder of the time, cause disturbance and suspicion, and Azem as “Albanian”, traditionally distrusted, especially when the war knocks on the door and when people take up arms.
When the school principal Filip gets drafted and his fellow villagers all decline to take care of his “Austro-Hungarian”, he asks Azem to be Lea’s guardian angel. Azem gives a besa that he will do so and this promise, a pledge and a vow, soon becomes the main initiator of the whole plot and the humour and the melancholy that arises from the curious clash between two different civilizations – Western Europe and the patriarchal Balkans. From this imposed and unwanted relationship, in the intimate teacher’s flat in a forgotten village school, a relationship is gradually developed between Lea, an airy, self-confident and talkative girl, and Azem, a taciturn and crude man, faithful to his promise. Their internal relationship is in close connection with the ever-present war with an uncertain outcome taking place outside, masterly shot through the windows of the teacher’s flat (this is where the excellence of director of photography Slobodan Trninic is best demonstrated).
The worse it gets on the battle field, the closer the relationship between Lea and Azem, but not only because unfortunate events bring people together, but because they find out more and more about each other, influencing each other’s habits, learning from each other, reading Tolstoi, playing waltzes together – she on the piano and he on his sharkia, helping people and the army… Their emotions go up – they are pure, honest and innocent. Some of the most beautiful scenes of love and caressing without touching are created. The final romantic performance. Great.
Miki Manojlovic is a reliable actor every director likes to lean on. He acts even when he is quiet. You trust him even when he utters just a few words or sings in Albanian. Iva Krajnc is a discovery, she was obviously a perfect material in the experienced hands of the director and an inspiring partner to Manojlović. Radivoj Raso Bukvic also made a notable appearance portraying officer Jevrem, an unexpected antagonist in the love drama. Bukvic’s acting can only be praised.
Art director Goran Joksimovic and costume designer Saša Kuljača made a considerable contribution to the reconstruction of the period and Zoran Simjanovic gave flavour to the overall atmosphere of the film with his fitting and discrete score. His original composition The Play of the Sun and the Moon, as well as his interpretation of Schubert’s Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel with the voice of Dragana del Monako, will long ring in our ears.
Please read the full report from Pula by the FEDEORA president Ronald Bergan.
Dubravka Lakic also writes about the awarded film Just Between Us.