From myth to burlesque





If the films included in this selection are anything to go by, then the current moment of Serbian animation can be viewed as a vivid and above all enticing mosaic of ideas, aesthetic and poetic approaches, involving authors from different generations. With the precious support from the Serbian Film Centre, we have obtained the few extra titles destined for exciting festival life in the years to come.
The traditional Serbian folk tale Girl Faster than the Horse was used as a template for the scenario of Elusiveness, a film by Marija Vulić. The capricious fairy challenges the suitors to a race in which she runs and they ride horses. The one who first reaches the golden apple and gets ahead of her, will be her husband: the eternal topic of the conflict between the female and the male principle, as well as the uncertain search for beauty, symbolically emphasised by the mysterious disappearance of the would-be bride at the very end. The dynamic fable is artfully visualised by Marija Vulić’s fascinating animation of ancient utility items (charcoal iron, spindle, distaff) and embroidery, creating images of dramatic scenes on backgrounds composed of hand-woven materials. This animated universe radiates the refined female touch, subtlety and daring.
The hero of the Chronicle of a Journey by Stevan Živkov is stuck at an obscure train station in the middle of nowhere. What is more, he is unable to board the odd passing train that does stop at this desolate place. His destiny is revealed as increasingly independent of his own will. In the first part of the film, Živkov chooses the clear linear drawing, giving way to the suggestive chiaroscuro and underlining the increasingly strong tension, counter-balanced by overall burlesque-like overtone. In the second part, there is a colour scene at the station bar, perpetrating carnival-like Brechtian development: the hero is in need of chasing away the dark thoughts, since the train that may never come again is becoming a symbol of a vicious circle, turning the Chronicle of a Journey into a bitter-ironic tale of deep existential crisis.

Mina Cvetinović, expert in special effects and computer graphics, has this time turned the focus of her directing to puppet animation. Handmade is a story of a charming old lady, owner of a small leather accessories shop, where some of the clients enter never to come out again. Like in Sylvain Chomet’s anthological film The Old Lady and the Pigeons (La vieille dame et les pigeons, 1997), the contrast between the fragile old lady and her unsuspected villainy is a tell-tale sign of the genre matrix of dark comedy and horror serving the purpose of effective narrative.
The recognisable visual expression of animator Vuk Palibrk draws its power from the very quintessence of animation, i.e. from the transformation as the aesthetically shaped principle. In the Mud Chronicle, the chain-linking of gags derived from free association, this anarchoid phenomenon, i.e. the unpredictable relation between the content and the form becomes clearly visible. The bizarre and the grotesque reach the climax at moments when the confessionary form of the intimate diary slips into obscenity; the poetic of exaggeration and the disjointed humour swirled by the fluid animation, all of these make the Mud Chronicle a kind of the author’s ludist manifest.
Lights and Shadows by Rastko Ćirić, is motif-wise a stylisation of the legend about the man whose desire for unlimited knowledge and earthly powers leads him to sell his soul to the devil, with the interpretation level of the film based on the shadow play. These two premises are a clear indication of the author’s dynamic and active relation towards the literary (J. F. Goethe) and film (Lotte Reininger) tradition. The author’s elaboration of the motif is visible in the daring, playful idea of the hands, rendered to dramatis personae in this animated piece. What is more, the hands belonging to the same person, the shadow play performer, have been assigned opposing roles, with the right one playing Faustus, and the left one taking the role of the Devil. Their shadows are engaged in performing the complex play on the surfeit of desires and the ensuing moral downfall. The art language used by Ćirić in the film Shadows and Lights is typical of his work as illustrator, making a generous contribution to the freshness and suggestiveness of the visual narrative.

Nebojša Petrović
visual artist & animator