Beneath Her Window

Deftly written dramatic comedy from Slovenia, pic explores the pre-midlife crisis of a young woman and effect it has on the eccentric friends and family in her orbit. As with his previous films, latest offering from Ljubljana-based producer Danijel Hocivar will leave fest auds smiling, satisfy select arthouse crowds and play well on TV and homevid.

With:
With: Polona Juh, Marjana Brecelj, Sasa Tabakovic, Robert Prebil, Zlatko Sugman, Tijana Zinajic, Jozica Avbelj.

Another keenly observed and deftly written dramatic comedy from Slovenia, “Beneath Her Window” explores the pre-midlife crisis of a young woman and the effect it has on the eccentric friends and family in her orbit. As with his previous films, which include “Idle Running” and “Porno Film,” latest offering from Ljubljana-based producer Danijel Hocivar and his E-Motion Film outfit will leave fest auds smiling, satisfy select arthouse crowds and play well on TV and homevid.

Something isn’t clicking in the life of dance instructor Dusha (Polona Juh). After teaching staid routines during the day, she spends most evenings blocking her own frantic, solo choreography, followed by pill-fuelled nocturnal sessions at a local dance club. Her best friend seems to be her hard-bitten mother, Vanda (Marjana Brecelj), who’s fond of younger guys because most men “either drink too much or they’re too married.” Dusha ignores this advice via sporadic trysts with hitched veterinarian Boris (Robert Prebil), and subsequently spends way too much time on the phone with a cynical psychic/astrologer.

As the Christmas holiday and her 30th birthday approach, Dusha grows more and more certain that someone is sneaking into her apartment and making subtle changes. The cord on an entrance bell is shortened, and a stopped-up sink is helpfully cleared. The intruder proves to be Jasha (Sasa Tabakovic), a timid yet obsessed admirer whose bird-watching grandfather (Zlatko Sugman) provides ornithological trivia that serves as a clever parallel commentary on pic’s relationships. Discovering she’s pregnant, Dusha decides it’s finally time to grow up.

The ace in the hole of these new Slovene films are their smart, funny scripts, and this sophomore big-screen effort from Metod Pevec delivers in spades. He’s created characters who endure their own idiosyncracies with rueful dignity and a kind of confused grace, neurotic enough to be annoying but decent enough to engage auds. Deft subtitling on print caught preserved a laudably high percentage of the verbal humor.

Plotting is ambitious, but just outrageous enough to work. In one of a handful of seemingly unrelated strands, Dusha’s never-seen Dad returns from India with a never-seen snake slaughtered offscreen in her bathtub by one of her mother’s boyfriends.

Dancer/thesp Juh had a supporting role in Pevec’s 1995 debut “Carmen,” and brings to this perf the same pixie scrappiness of Anne Heche’s early work. Most commendably, she navigates the rocky chasm between neurosis and normalcy. Rest of the cast is on script’s snappy wavelength, with stage and screen vet Brecelj getting most of the good lines as the mother with far too much life experience: “I want a granddaughter and another whiskey” is the laconic response to news of her daughter’s pregnancy.

Chief drawback to otherwise capable tech package is some heavy-handed music used to build suspense, coming off as spoofy and obvious. For the record, pic was dropped from the official competition section at the Karlovy Vary fest over unforeseen eligibility issues, but was screened as scheduled with its delegation present.

Beneath Her Window

Slovenia

Production: An E-Motion Film production, in association with RTV Slovenia, VPK. (International sales: MDC Intl. Media Distribution, Berlin.) Produced by Danijel Hocivar. Co-producers, Tanja Princic, Andrej Kregar. Directed, written by Metod Pevec.

Crew: Camera (color, Betacam-to-35mm), Ziga Koritnik; editor, Janez Bricelj; music, Aldo Kumar; art director, Katja Soltes; costume designer, Sabina Buzdon; sound (Dolby SRD), Boris Romih; assistant director, Luka Rus. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (non-competing), July 8, 2004. Running time: 87 MIN.

With: With: Polona Juh, Marjana Brecelj, Sasa Tabakovic, Robert Prebil, Zlatko Sugman, Tijana Zinajic, Jozica Avbelj.

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