Some balk at being Balkan.

A review of Balkan identity based on the film ‘‘Red-colored grey truck’’ (2004) of Srdjan Koljevic.

At the ‘‘Red-colored grey truck’’ of Srdjan Koljevic, vindication from the beginning to the end of the film text, is its reversed balance. As to Doane[1] the dissipating energy, which changes form from warm to cool space and cannot then produce work, acts so that balance is achieved. Consequently, the elaborating energy constitutes the crucial presence of differences and through their invalidation the phenomenon of entropy is observed. Ratko and Suzana, the two characters of the movie, preserve the spectator’s interest at a high level and through the alternative narrative occasions, which film time offers, the desire for the end is displaced. It is about a moment ramification, during which the poetic feeling not only for all that happens but also for all that actor feels is developed; it supersedes the film text in another reality. This reality is based on look, on glance and meeting out of the claustrophobic city image; it happens in the middle of the street, in the middle of nowhere. Road is superior to inn; richer in unexpected happenings as well as in stigmas.

Synopsis of the movie: June 1991, last day of peace in Yugoslavia. Ratko, a totally color-blind Bosnian guy steals a truck for a joyride. Suzana, a Belgrade city girl discovers she is pregnant and decides to take off to Dubrovnik before her abortion term. He almost runs her over and they end up traveling together. Ethnic war is imminent but the color-blind moron and the hot-tempered city girl cannot distinguish the differences among the opposing groups. When they get deeper into trouble, she wants to go home but it’s too late; the moron is in love with her. There is no way back, she has to discover that love is a miracle and that colors mean nothing[2]. Therefore, political and emotional are entwined; sexuality as power that moves the body, as an arsenal, is relevant to a political context, where the body-machine (soldier) is always excited, ready to join the war zone. This body-machine resists at the body-time, at the human condition. One Bosnian color-blind ex-prisoner and a city pregnant girl handle of their differences from Belgrade to Dubrovnik. In relation to space-country, as Alain Resnais at the movie ‘‘Hiroshima Mon amour’’ after Nevers, Paris and Hiroshima puts his heroes in Casablanca, in a white line, similarly Koljevic leads them in a virtual environment at the end; this virtual environment reminds of Trieste (Bagni di Lucca) and insinuates nowhere, the space as an abstraction, in which black stigmas and cracks take place.

The Balkans history is a crack regarding anything considered as typically European. Dina Iordanova[3] claims that cinema in case is presumption of artistic sensibility. It emanates from history and sociopolitical space that are offered for participation and contribution. Regarding the Balkans, the half western turn and the traditional concept that they consist the bridge of East and West, the religious contradictions about Islam and Christianity as well as the devotion they showed by choice at the Soviet regime, all these issues have surrounded the crucial atmosphere and influenced action. The civil war of Yugoslavia has been the topic of Koljevic movie in 2004. Therefore, 1989 has been vivid again as the knowledge phantasm, as a crack – track and return of the inhibition. The target, anyway, according to Iordanova[4] is not to cancel the individual, ethnic forms of culture but to penetrate them, in order that cultural spaces come to surface and suitable contexts for a common, transbordered identity are shaped beyond its strictly ethnic content.

Red color influences the film text as an allegory too. It gives the prospect for an alarm situation; in relation to literature it reminds of John Steinbeck and the ‘‘Grapes of Wrath’’ (1939) where there is also a red transaction: the red ground, sun, fresh-poured blood, ant and hen. Similarly in Koljevic we see: red track, crayon, cut watermelon, clothes of Suzana. All these are clues insinuating the conscientious identity and the handling of a crime. Penetrating void times and empty spaces, the text culmination is achieved. Perception is based on synthesis: instead of form, there is anti-form and the process described as happening has taken the place of artistic object. Ihab Hassan[5] in 1985 declared that from metaphor we move to metonymy, from choice to combination and from metaphysics to irony.

Koljevic handles of irony indeed. His statement that this deeply personal film offers an unusual and ironic view of serious issues[6] proves that. The ironic mood of the director is seen also when the priest lives at last and Ratko doesn’t kill Suzana with his truck. All marginal heroes or anti-heroes are keen on survival. Another interesting topic is that of the lost object. From scratch the movie fulfils its aim. The fight of macho criminals, the parallel dealings of kiss and knife attack, and the next statement of a travesty passer-by ‘‘these guys are finished’’ as a system of images in relation to each other, signify the paradox, the end of man and the emerging of a simulacrum, pendulant between man who doesn’t exist any more and woman whom wishes to look like. Then, the topic of the phallic phantasm comes to the fore; in a deeper level, it’s the desire for creativity, the subconscious, which is missing and rules reality.

Another similarity is seen between the names Ratko and truck; linguistic also. The role of Mercedes Benz is something more than functional. It could be the third hero, paralleling it to the Harley Davidson motorcycle B. M. Koltes chooses as the third actor of his play ‘‘Tabataba’’. The engine –truck- is the capital, a presumption of action and sexuality. Moreover, the symbol of Mercedes Benz, which Suzana paragons to the symbol of peace follows all the cases on the edge and signifies a sort of extension for Ratko. As an image, this 4 wheel trophy leads action to grotesque. When armed men force Ratko to pull down his pair of trousers, directly they shout: ‘‘welcome whoever you are at Koka’s territory, for all of us here this man is Tito’’! (43rd minute of the film; 43:39).

Grotesque is the core of Balkan identity. It is a collage of different elements, a patchwork in order that Balkan identity should rediscover itself. This movie defines best the Balkan identity as the altered images, action, short but smart dialogues depict what Balkans are today: sources of inspiration; politicized environment that can endure in space and time so as to awaken us. The dynamics of being Balkan is linked to crossing cultures, visual images, as well as to social memory. In that, it is necessary for us to deal with cultural diversity in an attempt to stop thinking ethnically but politically as society citizens. It is true we cannot eat flags for breakfast, we can just relish goods produced also abroad; therefore it’s the cultural that penetrates our lives and we have to base on that in order to revisit the issue of identity.

this text was presented at Korca conference ''Rethinking Balkan identities. The dynamics of space and time'', Border Crossings network, 22-25.05.08, Albania.

[1] Mary Ann Doane (2002): The emergence of Cinematic time. Modernity, contingency, the archive, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England, Harvard University Press, p. 116-117.
[2] From the online movie flyer www.emotionfilm.si/sivikamion/av/rctgc_flyer.pdf

[3] Dina Iordanova (2006): The cinema of the Balkans, Great Britain Wallflower Press, p. 1.

[4] Dina Iordanova (2006): The cinema of the Balkans, Great Britain Wallflower Press, p. 11.

[5] Peter Brooker (1992) Modernism/Postmodernism, London, Longman, p. 11-12.

[6] From the online movie flyer www.emotionfilm.si/sivikamion/av/rctgc_flyer.pdf

No comments: