This year’s Euro-Mediterranean Film Festival, which now permanently moved from Koper to the picturesque city of Piran, marked yet another stopping point for Olmo Omerzu’s excellent debut feature A Night Too Young (Příliš mladá noc / Mlada noc, 2012). The Czech-Slovenian co-production could easily be incorporated into several important trends that have been taking shape within the small, but resilient Slovenian cinema in recent years.
First of all, Omerzu is a representative of the second generation of post-independence Slovenian filmmakers, who are already introducing several distinct features into the local cinema environment. The main and the most obvious trait is the phlegmatic approach to the notion of the national in all its aspects. What is now becoming redundant is the very idea of a film belonging to this or other national cinema. For example Omerzu (as a Slovenian-born director) uses the Czech language and a Czech film crew in a partly Slovenian co-financed film. A Night Too Young is a universal work of art, untied to one or other cultural environment, elaborating on an archetypal, Oedipal theme, which allows it to transgress locally determined obstacles of understanding.
We must remember that this is, after all, somewhat new in recent Slovenian cinema. The first generation of Slovenian filmmakers, who established the independent cinema in the years following the country’s independence in 1991, have, at least to a large extent, stayed confined to the local environment, both thematically and in terms of production, which was also the cause of their main problem – their inability to find success in the international arena. It is true that several isolated examples stand out, such as Jan Cvitkovic’s Bread and Milk (Kruh in mleko, 2001) and Damjan Kozole’s Spare Parts (Rezervni deli, 2003), but not without controversy and harsh criticism. Especially for Kozole it could be argued that in finding success abroad, he often adopted the strategy of ideological auto-interpellation, by which he projected a certain expected image to the Western audience of what social life is like in a post-communist environment.
On the other hand, what we are now seeing with the new generation is an aspiration for an equal ideological and cultural presence in the Western arena, in films such as Mitja Okorn’s Letters to St. Nicholas (Listy do M., 2011), Mitja Knific’s Let me sleep (Noc, 2007) or even Marko Nabersnik’s lavish Shanghai Gypsy (Sanghaj, 2012). It is still a major unfulfilled ambition of Slovenian cinema to produce an auteur who could find noticeable and resonant success on the international market, and it seems that with these young filmmakers solid foundations for it are being laid.
The second trend is a gradual trans-national opening of the Slovenian cinema as a whole. Of course, this could be linked to global economic, cultural and political trends, which have left their mark in the theoretical field of film studies, where the notion of the national is slowly being replaced by the concern for explaining the logic of trans-national exchange. Nevertheless, two wider political and institutional trends have proven to be all too important in Slovenian cinema: the fact that the number of international collaborations with the Western market increased sharply after 2007 when Slovenia joined the Schengen area, and the fact that in 2010, the Slovenian film center, the privileged point of financing film production in the country, removed the provision that all Slovenian films (excluding co-productions) financed by the institution must be shot in the Slovenian language, which already began to open the textual tissue of the local national cinema as a whole, making it more and more open to trans-national collaborations.
So it is once again a new generation that has taken the stage and stole the spotlight from its predecessors, an occurrence which has proven to be historically all too important for the evolution of any national cinema. A Night Too Young is an excellent example of the new Slovenian cinema, sometimes even dubbed as the Slovenian cinema 2.0, designating its cohesion with the digital technology used by a generation of youngsters who grew up surrounded by computers and the internet. In artistic terms, A Night Too Young is an intelligent, perhaps even a difficult film, which demands several viewings to fully grasp its narrative hooks and sublime innuendos. Due to Omerzu’s excellent direction and wonderful cinematography by Lukás Milota, it will most likely turn out to be nothing less than a pleasure for art cinema lovers throughout the continent and the world.
Matic Majcen, Slovenia