Croatian viewers have found the film moving, in part because it was lensed in ruined churches and on real battlefields, with gunfire heard from the set. The problem for other filmgoers will be in overcoming Kodar’s lack of emotional distance from her subject and deciphering her codes.
Gacesic-Livakovic creates a memorable portrait of a Croatian Mother Courage, strong enough to raise a son alone and bury him by herself. Despite its technical mediocrity, this passionate, emotionally charged film will remain a disconcerting document of the Yugoslav tragedy, seen from the point of view of a particular place and time.
Vrijeme Za ...
(A TIME FOR ... ) (Croatian-Italian)
A Jadran Film (Zagreb)/RAI-3, Ellepi Film (Rome) production. Produced by Zdravko Mihalic, Leo Pescarolo, Giancarlo Santalmassi. Directed, written by Oja Kodar.
Camera (color), Gary Graver; music, Franco Piersanti; art direction, Ivo Husnjak, Nenad Pecur; costume design, Jelena Matic-Mihalic. Reviewed at Alpe Adria Cinema Festival, Trieste, Italy, Jan. 22, 1994. Running time: 99 min.
Marija ... Nada Gacesic-Livakovic
Darko ... Zvonimir Novosel
Bane ... Ivan Brkic
Zgoljo ... Dusko Valentic
With: Vinko Kraljevic, Dorde Rapajic, Franjo Jurcec, Andrea Bakovic, Eduard Perocevic, Slavko Brankov, Damir Mejovsek, Jasna Palic.
Oja Kodar's emotional account of the war in Croatia illustrates the danger of trying to tell a war story while the conflict is still going on. Scripted more than two years ago, when Croatia was seen internationally as a victim of Serbian aggression, "A Time for ..." takes up the Croatian banner so passionately it can easily pass for propaganda today.
The changing face of the war has given Italian co-productions RAI-3 and Ellepi Film cold feet, and no date has been fixed for its Italo release.
In Croatia, picture has been an enormous hit. With government blessing, it's been screened even in war-torn towns in practically underground conditions to avoid attracting Serbian bombs on assembled filmgoers. But the extreme emotions surrounding the war have made the film controversial among Croatian hawks, who object to the presence of a positive, peace-loving Serb.
Though Croat herself, Kodar -- Orson Welles' final companion, who worked on many of his last films -- is a longtime California resident. Admirers of "Jaded" will find it hard to believe the same director opted for this sentimental style and patriotic theme.
Story revolves around Marija (Nada Gacesic-Livakovic), who flees with her teenage son when their village is attacked by the ruthless Serbian militiamen known as Cetniks. Film's often-confused style actually works in this powerful scene of rape, torture and killing, as the villagers flee in terror from their former neighbors.
Marija finds a job in a hospital laundry in town. Her son, Darko (Zvonimir Novosel), falls for a pretty girl whose mother is missing. A brutish Serbian sniper and his whorish girlfriend have fun shooting from their bedroom window and picking off passersby in the market.
Everything is told with the crushing predictability of old-style Soviet war pictures, in which all the characters are unbelievably good or bad, with no motivations needed or allowed. Darko slips away against his mother's entreaties and joins the Croat partisans. After a battle with the Cetniks, he is believed to be killed, and an unrecognizable corpse is delivered to a despairing Marija.
The film boasts one powerful archetypal image -- Marija pulling a wooden cart loaded with a coffin bearing her son's body through the devastated countryside. This arresting icon has a universal antiwar resonance that briefly raises "A Time for ..." to the level of its lofty ambitions.