In her award-prevailing first feature, Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s dives deep into the complicated relationships within one Croatian family.
“Growing up in Dubrovnik, I had a near dating with the ocean,” Croatian director Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović tells me. “As a toddler I even had a small cave by the sea close to our house, which I set up as if it changed into my dwelling room, with an area to take a seat, and an area for my dolls. So for me the Adriatic changed into always a place for my creativeness.” The sea is indeed a man or woman in its own right in Kusijanović‘s film Murina (“Moray Eel”), which picked up the Camera d’Or for exceptional debut function on the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. Such success bodes properly for a rustic whose cinema, in the meanwhile, remains struggling for its place on international displays.
Featuring stunning underwater digicam paintings and a few quietly excessive performances, Murina is a subtly unsettling film that challenges our stereotypes about a country that has turn out to be an international vacationer brand. Despite being an Adriatic-set drama offering turquoise waters and dry-stone houses, it comes across as some thing totally extraordinary from the all-too-acquainted Mediterranean of straw hats and seafood platters. Offering a domestically-rooted story of claustrophobic family relationships, it demonstrates that the brochure-friendly sea and sunshine of Croatia may be just as unsettling as any urban noir.
At the coronary heart of the tale is sixteen-year-old Julija (Gracija Filipović), who lives proper on the seaside with her mom Nela (Danica Ćurčić) and father Ante (Leon Lučev), a domineering determine with whom she shares a passion for fishing. Their routine is interrupted by a guest — the daddy’s rich American buddy Javier (Cliff Curtis), potential investor in a tourism mission cooked up by way of Ante. The gradual-burning contention among Julija and her mom for the American’s interest brings a brooding realisation that the relationships linking the four most important characters may be approximately to implode.
Equally vital is the Adriatic Sea itself, whose presence within the film is a ways from simply an excuse for fancy photography. Julija and her father move swimming, scuba diving, harpoon fishing, sharing an underwater relationship each with the Adriatic and with each other. (It is on land that things are as an alternative less clearcut.)
“I use the ocean as a way of coming into the subconscious of my foremost protagonist,” Kusijanović explains. “It is a space in which bodily and emotional rules are distinct. For me, the ocean has constantly been a place of each worry and freedom. Although I am for my part very terrified of deep water, not like Julija in the movie.”
Another person within the film who didn’t make the credits is, of direction, the fish and then the film is named — a slippery, deep-residing, and aggressive creature whose fleeting but important appearances bookend the film. “Murina is a fish that bites itself while trapped [a good way to escape]. I see my protagonist inside the same manner – she is ready to harm herself to loose herself from her circle of relatives and set up her personal life and her freedom,” says the director.
The out of doors scenes of Murina were filmed in some of the maximum lovely components of the Croatian Adriatic, with the idyllic island of Koločep, the starkly beautiful Kornati archipelago and the pebble cove of Dubovica close to Hvar presenting the main backdrops. In Kusijanović’s skillful hands, those appealing excursion places are converted into an arid, inhospitable, emotionally challenging area. “These Spartan robust places are beautiful to look at however difficult to live in,” the director says. “My cinematographer Hélene Louvart and I have been very aware of the want to create a visual language for Murina that could no longer appear to be a postcard. We need to sense tension. We need to sense claustrophobia, even though we are in a widespread open area. It is a utopian, isolated landscape, but as we realize every utopia can slowly resolve into horror.”
It is a bit of this utopia that Ante, Julija’s father, is hoping his rich American friend will invest in. Their potential venture could draw in crowds of tourists — but the terrain they intend to build on turned into the scene of a woodland fire in which local firemen perished, bringing into query the morality of using such hallowed floor as the website of vacationer development. Domestic visitors will realize this instantly as a reference to the real-lifestyles Kornati bush fire of 2007, wherein 12 firefighters lost their lives. “Those firemen have been almost the same age as me on the time,” says Alamat Kusijanović, “and the tragedy struck my era deeply.” Yet, because it so frequently occurs, society’s need for commemoration has dwindled over the years. “Such matters have a tendency to be pushed underneath the carpet; and use of the tragedy in the film changed into my manner of making connection with the fact that we’re even prepared to sell the sacred.”
With the Adriatic coast (as well as many other components of the globe) more and more at risk of forest fires, the movie’s connection with the tragedy gives Murina with a dark undercurrent of environmental danger and human misuse. Indeed, it’s uncommon for a modern Croatian movie to mix an intimate own family tale with a extra accepted sense of disquiet so effectively.
The courting among Javier and Ante points towards the ambiguous interdependence of the traveler and the visited in all countries where the tourist industry is king. Yet, Alamat Kusijanović is keen to point out that the film isn’t about tourism in step with se. “It is extra about how we as a country are capitalising at the history we were given to protect. Everyone is searching out a way to promote that history, and our inheritance is being eroded as a end result. So it’s no longer a lot tourism this is the leitmotif of the film, as our mentality of making clean money, as though there may be a shape of wealth that comes with out difficult work. When in reality there is no wealth that comes that way, irrespective of how easy it’d look on the surface.”
There isn’t any clean money in movie-making both. Murina changed into made with funding from various global resources and an extra subsidy from the Croatian authorities; a deftly constructed economic mosaic that is frequently the only way to get a first rate movie made in countries that lack a strong international media presence. Alamat Kusijanović compares the usual method for making use of for authorities subsidies in Croatia to “fighting for breadcrumbs”, suggesting that too many small movies are made on restrained state-subsidised budgets. “In widespread, I think the notion of presidency cash is wrong in Croatia: it ought to be handled as something this is extra to the manufacturing, rather than the best cash. We had been fortunate with Murina due to the fact we started out with a positive quantity of private money from the United States and Brazil. We spent that money in Croatia however also had the liberty to pick the way to use it. We were not sure by means of the policies that frequently include government money.
“There is amazing skills in my era, and if we have been higher organised or had greater support we’d have produced a brand new wave of Croatian movie already. But there is no new wave simply due to the achievement of one character; humans need to come via collectively.”
Still from Murina (2021)Read greater
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