The Gothic in the Balkans: Does it Really Exist?

By Tanja Jurkovic

…or is it simply a by-product of the Western influence?
I’ve been googling the term Gothic romance in the Balkans, and in certain Balkan countries, apart from getting the search results connected to the Gothic genre and how it came into existence, not much information appeared,  specific to that part of the world, in literature, film or any other medium. I did, however, find articles and news reports of the Gothic as a lifestyle, fashion statement and part of the music genre, a “movement” that I belong to as well, but that is a story for a different post. In this post, I would like to focus more on the Gothic genre or the lack of its presence, other than the historical one, on the Balkan territory.

Continue reading “The Gothic in the Balkans: Does it Really Exist?”

"Films are stories about people, not about ideas" – an insight into Croatian film style


In my previous post (about the reasons for starting  research in the Balkan (horror) cinema, with the focus on Croatia and Serbia), I mentioned a book titled In Contrast: Croatian Film Today, a collection of conversations, articles, reviews and interviews of some of the most important directors, films and recurring themes in Croatian film. The title of this post was taken from a conversation with one of the most prolific Croatian directors, Rajko Grlić. His expertise, as well as his innovative directorial style is described by the editors of this book as:
“Rajko Grlić’s sensibility for political issues doesn’t manifest itself in open proclamations. Rather, he tends to focus on simple individuals and their foibles, on characters who exist within a well rounded social and political environment. As they cannot escape the intricacies of their own temperaments and habits, much in the same way they are entrapped, sometimes even without knowing it, in the circumstances dictated by a specific historical and political moment. His films point to the obvious, the absurd, the ridiculous in our lives – to which we have become oblivious.”
Having said that, this is a pretty well rounded and accurate description of most films made in Croatia, when it comes to topics represented by numerous Croatian filmmakers. Most of Croatian films are permeated with a specific type of light, but remarkable and very distinct sense of humor, which gives the audience a sense of relief among the difficulties presented to them during such films, because they are, more often than not, somewhat too close to home. Different styles in directing call for different views by the filmmakers, of course, but the above mentioned themes and characters are somehow always present in Croatian film, no matter the genre. Showing the life full of everyday passions, romanticized relationships and settings, makes way for all this positivity to fall apart in front of the viewer’s eyes, slowly revealing the true state of our reality, which turns out to be not so funny and kind.
Most Croatian films, especially the ones made by Rajko Grlić, have political undertones, depicting the times in which they were made, often dealing with changes and tumultuous times in Croatia, especially concerning the war and post-war times. These films say a lot about the country, and the mentality of the people, as well as the now very visible social and political issues that seem to form a strange and somewhat hopeless atmosphere in the country. Nevertheless, Croatian filmmakers do keep up pretty well with the West when it comes to directing films, which can be seen in various co-productions and collaborations, and the shift in some of the genres, like horror, where filmmakers, mostly independent, self-funded ones, follow the Western formula of making horror films, but in a Croatian way, still using the previously mentioned characters, oblivious of their own reality until a horrific event breaks all the rules of their seemingly safe and happy lives.
“Films are stories about people, not about ideas”, the one sentence that sums up the core of Croatian style of filmmaking, in the midst of the struggle against representing the political propaganda and the lack of finances in contemporary times. Croatian film is evolving, and focusing more on these distinct themes, and combining them with contemporary issues, it is slowly establishing itself on the world map.

In the shadows: memories of childhood, memories of identity

For some strange reason, I was always drawn to the mysterious topic of film in my country, Croatia, and the neighbouring countries whose story of different cultures intertwined at some point in history. I used to watch a lot of films while I was growing up, but I have never actually considered them as being that interesting, or multi-layered, with a hidden message crawling under the main storyline of a film, probably because of the themes that explored the problems of social significance through a representation of violence, for example, or comedies that came out after the war period in Croatia, dealing with memories and consequences of it, and the fact that I was too young at the time. But that changed rapidly. I grew up, and started to see the world around me in a different way, while struggling with the grim reality of a young person with so many hopes and dreams to be cut off and put down by the political and social situation in the country I lived in. More and more I realized that the topic of identity and the crisis of the same is becoming a vital part of my research, as well as my own existence. A lot of people have asked me why film then, and horror film of all genres, to explore identity, and the more people asked me that, the more I thought that I chose precisely the right medium for my research. Continue reading “In the shadows: memories of childhood, memories of identity”