A quiet triumph of focused improvisation, Slovene relationship drama “Rustling Landscapes” marks a noteworthy feature debut from Janez Lapajne and his quartet of leads, all of whom are credited for the unscripted storyline. On the heels of what’s sure to be great fest demand, pic should rustle up good biz on the arthouse landscape before going out to ancillary pasture.
In the middle of the night, Katarina (Barbara Cerar) arrives by car at the summer home in Bela Krajina, Slovenia, where her b.f. of seven years, Luka (Rok Vihar) has apparently been holed up brooding over something. During the course of their passionate yet eloquent arguments, it becomes clear that a series of miscommunications between them has prompted Katarina to abort a baby she thought Luka didn’t want and thus their relationship is in serious trouble.
The next day, while tagging along with Luka as he takes pictures at a viaduct, Katarina meets disarmingly affable soldier Primoz (Gregor Zorc). Shortly thereafter, Luka, who has been banished to living in a tent outside the cottage, has a chance encounter in a pharmacy with assertive older woman Ana (Masa Derganc). This being rural Slovenia, each newly minted couple finds ample opportunity to spend time together, and the outside influences of new people slowly sculpt the future of the stormy central relationship.
Under Lapajne’s sure hand, universally understood issues of communication, fidelity, jealousy, longing and frustration are presented clearly and without manipulative sentiment, allowing the fundamental decency of the characters to shine through.
Obviously conceived in the deliberate, benevolent spirit of Eric Rohmer’s tales and proverbs, story plays much more tightly than most scripted pics; per helmer, the fortnightlong shoot was accomplished without a single word being committed to paper.
Unsurprisingly for a film created by its leading players, perfs are tops. Cerar brings a fiery pride to Katarina, whether butting heads with Vihar’s anguished yet sympathetic Luka or struggling over her intense new feelings for Zorc’s achingly sincere Primoz.
Her long monologue in the soldier’s flat encapsulates pic’s skill at capturing those fragile moments of life: As the distraught young woman describes her abortion, Primoz’s shy respect struggles with his desire to comfort her.
Only Derganc’s Ana seems underserved in the final edit, though her words of wisdom on going it alone (“you have to learn to live a problem-free life”) are essential to the thought process that sparks Luka’s climactic decision and determines the direction in which Katarina and Primoz will go.
Tech credits are crisp and uncluttered, with d.p. Matej Kriznik’s largely handheld camera probing the drama intuitively without drawing attention to itself. Work garnered four prizes at the fifth Slovenian fest, including best pic nods from the fest proper, critics’ org and auds.