Review: ‘A Portrait of a Poet with a Double’

An expressionist tour of the life of Slovenia's preeminent Romantic poet France Preseren, "A Portrait of a Poet with a Double" is an atmospheric biopic cut down from the TV miniseries "Preseren." Director Franci Slak ("When I Close My Eyes") sensitively explores Preseren the man, reducing the public part of his life to nearly nothing. Pubcasters looking for rarefied quality fare may want to take a look.

An expressionist tour of the life of Slovenia’s preeminent Romantic poet France Preseren, “A Portrait of a Poet with a Double” is an atmospheric biopic cut down from the TV miniseries “Preseren.” Director Franci Slak (“When I Close My Eyes”) sensitively explores Preseren the man, reducing the public part of his life to nearly nothing. Pubcasters looking for rarefied quality fare may want to take a look.

Film’s conceit is that Preseren (1800-1849) was shadowed by a childhood friend named Pacnjek who is a kind of alter ego, but this is peripheral to the poet’s unhappy life. In Pavle Ravnohrib’s interiorized perf, Preseren is an oafish-looking gent of fine manners and deep feelings who drinks a lot. He absentmindedly neglects to court a beautiful Austrian lady, finds out she has suddenly died, then realizes he loved her. He develops a fixation on a homely 16-year-old already engaged to be married, and makes her the subject of a scandalous poem. The accidental death of his friend Matija Cop has a profound influence on his poetry. His importance as the poet who reinvigorated Slovene literature is mentioned by his friends, in passing.

A Portrait of a Poet with a Double

Slovenia

Production

A Bindweed Soundvision production in association with RTV Slovenia/Filmski Sklad RS. (International sales: Bindweed Soundvision, Domzale, Slovenia.) Produced, directed by Franci Slak. Screenplay, Matjaz Kmecl, Branko Somen.

Crew

Camera (color), Bojan Kastelic; editor, Nikita Maja Lah; music, Mitja Smrekar. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 18, 2004. Running time: 110 MIN.

With

Pavle Ravnohrib, Vlado Novak, Matjaz Tribuson, Mario Selih, Veronika Drolc.
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