Thursday, 11 June 2020

Movie review: Village without Women, dir Srdjan Šarenac (2010)

There’s no IMDB page for this lovely, quirky comedy but there is a page belonging to an organisation – Doc Alliance – where you can find a summary:
In Southwest Serbia, atop a mountain and four kilometres from the nearest road, the Jankovic brothers hold down the fort in the womanless village of Zabrdje. Dragan, Zoran, and Rodoljub, along with their neighbour, Velimir, represent the entire population of what was once a vibrant rural community. They live in tough conditions. No running water, no roads, not even a hint of a woman’s touch. Not to mention, the three brothers still share the same bedroom. Zoran, the eldest brother, dreams of marrying a woman capable of handling life in Zabrdje.
I hesitate to include even the above description as the beauty of this documentary is that, from the outset, you have little to orient yourself beyond the immediacy of a rooster, a herd of sheep and goats, and the green hills of the countryside surrounding the Jankovics’ homestead – perched atop a hill outside a small village – with its earthen floors and wooden outhouse.

To alleviate the effects of their isolation, the brothers cut pictures out of pornographic magazines and stick them (laboriously, using tape) to the whitewashed walls of their home. Like the rooster or the gate of the pen where the animals are kept (when they’re not grazing on the hillside), this dramatic element is stripped of all ornamentation, reduced to essentials, like the three brothers in their womanless lives. They carry on desultory conversations with each other, many of which revolve around the problem of finding a wife for Zoran. It’s not clear why the women have left the village but, as in the case of Albania – where the opposite problem (an excess of women) exists – doubtless has something to do with globalisation. The fact that it’s not spelled out is another of characteristics of this documentary.

The soundtrack, which comprises folk tunes played with traditional instruments, is also simple; it offers a comic counterpoint underscoring the filmmakers’ intent: to make a story about a modern-day Serbian hero.

Zoran wants an Albanian wife but Rodoljub, the youngest, is opposed to the idea of bringing a foreigner into the house, though a neighbour in a nearby village has an Albanian wife and Zoran goes, one day, to meet with the two of them and to talk about what you need to do to bring a potential bride across the border. Because not much happens in the film, when something does happen – as when Zoran goes to another town to get his passport, so that he can travel to Albania – you pay attention to small details. If ever a work of art embodied the idea of privileging the moment – finding the beauty in ordinary things – this film’d be it. 

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