Friday, October 1, 2010

Time of the Gypsies (1988)

Dom za vesanje (lit. "Home for Hanging")
Director: Emir Kusturica
Yugoslavia* 1988
136 min
Starring: Damor Dujmovic, Ljubica Adzovic, Bora Todorovic, Husnija Hasimovic and Sinolicka Trpkova, among others.

[*Yugoslavia was circa 1992 kind of divided into the six (or seven) countries Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, (Kosovo), Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia - just to make the geography lessons much more difficult.]

I should listen more often to the film tips of my readers! Amy Inferno gave me some great tips of Eastern European movies I should keep an eye on, and I have watched two of them. What Iva Recorded (2005) is an excruciatingly interesting film made in Croatia, that in Blair Witch Project style is built around the recordings of a girl Iva on her 15th birthday. As the film evolves, her family shows to be more disturbing than what it at first seems like. I highly recommend it.

Having now seen one film from Czechoslovakia and one from Croatia, I thought that I could take a look at Emir Kusturica's Time of the Gypsies from Yugoslavia (now Bosnia-Herzegovina), before watching the sexploitation film we were to see in film class today. Oh boy, European films are interesting! The blending of humor and painful drama is both disturbing to someone used to Hollywood, and at the same time deeply satisfying for a viewer who likes to get surprised and watch movies in a different way for a change.

The protagonist is a gypsy teenage boy in Slovenia, Perhan (Dujmovic). He lives with his grandmother (Adzovic), uncle Merdzan (Hasimovic) and crippled sister Danira (Elvira Sali). If you ever had any preconception of how a gypsy neighborhood in Slovenia looks like... this film gives you right. It's grey, it's muddy, its inhabitants are different degrees of strange and alcoholic - it's like the Kazakhstan village in Borat (2006).

Perhan, a very special boy that knows telekinesis, falls in love with a neighbor girl, Azra. He wants to marry her, but is told by her mother that he does not deserve her. Not to mention that Perhan is the illegitimate son of a soldier that abandoned his now deceased mother. Comically enough, Azra's "finer" family looks about as trashy as the rest of the cast, except that they have a house with walls. (You will later notice that a house with walls is a real luxury in Slovenian settlements.)

The scene where Perhan and Azra fall in love was so lovely, that I couldn't help to cut it out for you. Notice the interesting editing while Perhan explains how to make lime - and take a look at his turkey friend that he got as a gift in the beginning of the film. It will not last too long.

It turns out that Perhan's uncle Merdzan is a lousy gambler, and after having lost a large bet to a rich pimp called Ahmed, he tries to force money out of Perhan's family. When they, of course, don't have any money to give him, Merdzan ties a rope to the top of the roof, throws it over some electric cables, ties the end of the rope to his car and drives off in pouring rain - resulting in the probably most famous scene from this film.

Luckily, Perhan's grandmother's got the gypsy magic too, and after having saved Ahmed's sick son she makes a deal with him when he tries to pay her in cash. There is a hospital in Ljubljana (the capital of Slovenia, duh) that can fix Danira's legs, and as long as Ahmed pays for the surgery, they are even. Perhan follows along (after having tried to kill Merdzan for cooking his turkey), and here's where the film clearly takes a turn for the tragic.

Perhan's friend.

It turns out that Ahmed is neither reliable or honorable, something that one might have started to suspect when he on his way to Ljubljana with Perhan and Danira picks up other children, even two infants he claims he just bought from a lady in distress. Perhan ends up in Milano with Ahmed and his gang of thugs, and the rest is... unpredictable, dramatic, comical and exciting. When he comes back home, he is a different man.

Remember that I briefly told you that Perhan's uncle made a stew out of the turkey? He makes a come back (more than once), and I just had to offer another cool scene from the film. It's a dream sequence (or is it...?), and the Milan Cathedral ("Il Duomo") is an occurring theme. Why do I tell this? I was there on a school trip. Well, outside of it. My dress was too short, I was not decent enough to be allowed to enter. Well, the outside is quite pretty too... And those damn pigeons have obviously been there since the 1980's, at least.

Anyway. Time of the Gypsies (I like the literal translation "Home for Hanging" better) is a freakishly entertaining film in so many ways. It's aesthetically brilliant, the actors are wonderful, the editing is cool but not too obvious... I could go on, but I won't. The ending is splendid, just wanted to say that.

Interestingly enough this film takes place in Slovenia, but was filmed in Bosnia-Herzegovina. But Milano and Rome where filmed on location, which is both admirable and adds to both the visuals and the story. I mean, how can one interpret Fontana di Trevi without water?

I don't know whether to read anything into the fact that Perhan Jr is wearing the same hat in the end of the film as Perhan wore in the beginning.


Amy Inferno said...


Amy Inferno said...

uhm... I can t be sure to remember the nitty gritty details, but I know that Perhan had a slovenian father, and I don t think that they actually live in Slovenia. the images of their village at any chance looks real enough to be in any part of Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo or Macedonia, but Slovenia... not so much. maybe I am wrong. :D

as for the end... the son has taken the role of his father, and for him doing that unaware while still a child adds up to the tragedy, as I see it, symbolically speaking.

it was so refreshing and great to read a review of the film from a film lover with such a different cultural background. :)

fun facts: "Azra" is a female name that one of the most impact making yugoslavian bands took for themselves. :)

and another recommendation, a documentary-type film, just unlike any other. :)

Lotten said...

Amy Inferno:
Haha, I did not believe the setting for this film is the standard in former Yugoslavia! But it really is the preconceptions of gypsy life, if one is one of those lightweight racists that too many people are.
Hehe, I got the ending. Love how he steals the coins from his father's eyes, too. Cute kid - will grow up to be just like his daddy!
Thanks for the new tip :)

Amy Inferno said...

not the standard for every place, but for some gypsy villages, yes, I m afraid it still is. :l
I really like their warmth, traditions, the joy of life and all the singing and dancing. :)

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