While performed with virtuosity, the melody of marital discord is all too familiar in Slovene drama “Tuning.” Sterling production values and pitch-perfect lead performances from Peter Musevski and Natasa Burger, as a couple becalmed in the waters of complacency, disguise —but can’t really remedy—the weaknesses of a predictable script and overly mannered helming. Fests will lend an ear, though pic won’t resonate far beyond regional play.
While on business in Brussels’ European Parliament, Peter (Musevski) visits a hooker but is clearly guilt-ridden over his indiscretion. Returning home to graphic designer wife Katarina (Burger) and their two girls in Ljubljana, he half-heartedly pursues a hookup with former classmate Manca (Polona Juh). Meanwhile, Katarina, who seems to have a lot on her mind, sobs uncontrollably in the bathroom at night; eventually, she decides to have a brief fling with poet Matjaz (musician Andraz Polic, Burger’s real-life partner), whose book of verse, called “Closenesses,” she’s designing.
Woven into the narrative are scenes from a very strained marriage, punctuated by momentary blackouts, that sing the same old songs of malaise and reconciliation. Katarina becomes incensed when Peter lies in court during the divorce proceedings of pal Uros (Tomi Janezic); the couple fret over the sexual awakening of their eldest daughter, Nina (Ana Kerin); and the funeral of Katarina’s mother precipitates Peter’s discovery of her furtive fling.
Clearly meant as a Big Statement on contemporary partnerships and the emotional ennui that can capsize them, pic is jaggedly discordant in both editing and emotional content. Screenplay, co-written by helmer Igor Sterk with Sinisa Dragin (writer-director of the more emotionally raw “Everyday God Kisses Us on the Mouth”), has too many narrative dead ends to build a decent head of steam. Such promising plot threads as Matjaz’ wooing of Katarina via text messaging, her ransacking of the family flat in search of something never clarified, and even the simple yet effective metaphor of the family’s out-of- tune piano, play more as truncated than fully realized ideas.
Musevski, who was so good as a chillingly amoral killer in Vinko Moedendorfer’s “Suburbs,” excels here at weak-willed angst, while Berger, the barren wife in Jan Hrebejk’s “Up and Down,” makes Katarina’s anguished turmoil heartbreakingly effective. However, both tortured characters too often stare ruminatively off into the middle distance, making it difficult for auds to sympathize with their plight. Supporting players have too little with which to work to make much of an impact.
Tech package is pro, led by Petar Markovic’s forceful editing and spot-on art direction of Ursa Loboda. Imaginative score by Aldo Kumar & Ars Harmonica sells the title metaphor with vivid blasts of atonal sound.