A probing satirical comedy whose targets include both the old-style Communists and the new-style capitalists of the former Yugoslav republic of Croatia, “The Ghost of Marshal Tito” is a most pleasant surprise. Likely to get a great deal of exposure on the fest circuit, pic is a candidate for theatrical release in some Euro territories, with specialized TV webs also strongly indicated.
Though it helps to have some knowledge of the political history of Croatia over the past 50 years or so, the film can be enjoyed without that backgrounding. The hucksters out to make a fast dinar are as universally recognizable as are the conservative, old guard ex-soldiers.
The film is set on a small island off the Croatian coast. Since the Balkan wars of the 1990s, the island’s economy is shattered; there hasn’t been a tourist here in five years, and the only hotel is shuttered. The island’s mayor, Luka (Ivo Gregurevic), is also its principal wheeler-dealer, always on the lookout to make some money. He owns the run-down, empty hotel as well as the only bar, which is also the local eatery.
In the “new” Croatia, the elderly men and women who fought as partisans during World War II, and who have been diehard Communists ever since, are on the defensive. Almost like members of a secret society, these veterans, led by Marinko Cicin (Ilja Ivezic) have to keep their red flags, their busts of Lenin and their photos of the late Communist leader of Yugoslavia, Marshal Jozip Broz Tito (who died in 1980), under wraps.
At the nighttime funeral of one of these old soldiers, a miracle occurs: The ghost of Marshal Tito appears. News of this amazing event gets back to the mainland, and a young police officer, local boy Stipan Macula (Drazen Kuhn), is sent to investigate.Stipan discovers that many of the islanders are treating the news of the ghostly sighting as if a vampire had come to town; strings of garlic have been hung all over the place, and many citizens are prominently wearing crucifixes, presumably to ward off the late leader’s evil spirit.
Further ghostly sightings give Marinko and his followers the encouragement to dust off their old uniforms and come out into the open. Luka, inspired by the tourist bonanza that brought millions to a small town in Bosnia after sightings there of the Virgin Mary, decides to introduce “socialist spiritual tourism” to the island — capitalizing on the quaint communist rallies, slogans and parades of another era.”The Ghost of Marshal Tito” is a consistently chucklesome comedy despite a few slow spots in the later stages. Kuhn is delightfully deadpan as the puzzled investigator, while the peripheral, larger-than-life characters are broadly, and entertainingly, portrayed. Though the grainy images suggest a low-budget shoot, they don’t detract from this disarmingly droll film.